By Michael Bennett
Pursuing a financial gain is part of any business entity’s activity, yet doing it responsibly and in compliance with international and locals laws, and regulations is a whole other matter. Vitol , one of the world’s largest oil traders is ready to charter vessels – which happen to be under US sanctions – for the delivery of petroleum products to Syria and the Crimea.
Earlier Vitol signed a contract with ENOC (Emirates National Oil Company) for the export of crude oil from the oilfield developed by the ENOC subsidiary, Dragon Oil on the Turkmen shelf of the Caspian Sea.
Initially, this crude oil was being planned to be exported by vessels belonging to the Russian shipping company VF Tanker and the Turkmen Maritime Shipping Company. However, apparently after some considerations, Vitol decided to reduce transportation costs and chartered tankers Mekhanik Voronkov (IMO 886719, built in 1971) and Grigoriy Bugrov (IMO 8848628, built in 1974). As we speak, Mekhanik Voronkov is approaching Aladzha port in Turkmenistan for loading of crude oil.
Apart from the fact that these vessels are already more than 45 years old (!) and present significant danger to the ecology of the Caspian Sea, or any sea, for that matter, they are owned and operated by the company “Trans-Flot JSC” from Samara, Russia, which is on the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctions list for organizing the supply of petroleum products to Syria and the Crimea. In addition, Vitol is negotiating charter for two additional vessels that are also under US sanctions: Stalingrad (IMO 9690212) and Marshal Tukhachevsky (IMO 9035541).
It is an astounding development, indeed, considering that Vitol which has multi-billion operations in US dollars and has extensive business in the United States, is ready to put itself (just for the short-term profit) at risk of being sanctioned by US authorities. How this turns out in the long run is yet to be seen.
Michael Bennett is a foreign policy analyst specializing in Central and Eastern Europe
*The opinions and arguments of the contributor reflect the views of the contributor only and do not represent the views of Foreign Policy News.