Report: Shadow Tankers Sail Without Danish Pilots Despite Recent Collision

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There are renewed concerns that the fleet of shadow tankers carrying Russian oil continues to disregard international regulations and is creating an increasing maritime danger. The Danish Maritime Authority is confirming that one of the tankers was involved in a small accident earlier in the month as the Financial Times today published a leaked report that says the tankers are now regularly declining the services of pilots as they transit the busy shipping lanes in the Danish Straits.

Concerns have been raised before about the potential of tankers attempting to navigate the narrow channels and strong currents in the Danish Strait without the country’s experienced pilots. The Danish Maritime Authority expressed concerns about the dangers of vessels traveling in the busy shipping lanes without assistance in September 2022. These concerns are being renewed and causing a political debate in Denmark in the wake of the reports that a somewhat mysterious tanker inbound to the Baltic clipped a smaller cargo ship outbound at the beginning of March.

In a leaked report seen by the Financial Times and Danwatch, a Danish media group, they are asserting that at least 20 tankers were identified as making the transit without Danish pilots in 2024. The story in the FT cites information from analytics company Kpler to assert that the tankers were carrying a total of approximately 10 million barrels of oil. Further, they write that only three of the tankers were carrying insurance from a recognized Western provider.

By a treaty dating back hundreds of years, vessels can make an “innocent passage” freely without a mandatory requirement for a pilot. Many insurance providers however require the use of pilots especially in challenging and busy areas such as the Danish Straits.

A firestorm erupted in Denmark when an opposition leader demanded an investigation after news of the collision at the beginning of March leaked into the media this week. One politician called for the government to impose a mandatory requirement for the use of pilots while the government’s energy minister said they were working with the European Union to address the concerns. Last year, it was suggested that Denmark might begin checking insurance and certificates for tankers transiting the straits.

The Danish Maritime Authority confirmed that it is currently detaining the tanker Andromeda Star after the collision on March 2. They are however reporting that an initial inspection revealed that the tanker had all the required certifications, including insurance, while public databases are unclear of the vessel’s current ownership. A request was however filed with the Danish police to investigate the incident. 

The tanker, which was reported to be traveling only with ballast at the time, suffered minor cracks. According to the media reports, the tanker was taken to a shipyard for repairs. 

Initially, the other vessel in the collision was not identified. Media reports however are now saying that it was a smaller general cargo ship named Peace. The vessel appears to be a 16,800 dwt ship registered in Bulgaria which was outbound from Sweden. The vessel reportedly was not damaged and her AIS signal shows she is now in the Mediterranean heading for Alexandria, Egypt.

Top photo by L-BBE in 2013 — CC BY 3.0 DEED

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