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Manager of Ex-Sovcomflot Tanker Fleet May Face EU Sanctions

Sun Ship Management
Sun Ship Management Ltd. is the new manager of about 90 Russian vessels, including LNG carrier Christophe de Margerie, christened by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2017 (Kremlin file image)

Published Feb 15, 2023 5:40 PM by The Maritime Executive

Dubai-based shipping company Sun Ship Management Ltd. may soon be facing EU sanctions, diplomats in Brussels told Politico. 

According to Politico, Sun was once named SCF Ship Management (Dubai), and it was an acknowledged subsidiary of Russian state shipping company Sovcomflot. In April 2022, shortly after the invasion of Ukraine and the imposition of Western sanctions, Sovcomflot transferred control of about 90 of its tankers and LNG carriers to Sun. Most are flagged with a prominent U.S.-based open registry, and public records show that the majority are classed by IRClass. (IRClass denies classing Russian-owned or -operated tankers.) 

Sovcomflot has denied that it transferred control of its tankers to Sun. However, Sun manages tankers previously managed by SCF subsidiaries, and most of these vessels still carry their Russian names from their time in the SCF fleet - including more than a dozen that still contain the prefix "SCF." 

Sun's ex-Russian tankers have become an important source of tonnage for Russian oil exports, according to tanker analysts. EU regulators have noticed, and the government of the Netherlands has proposed adding Sun Ship Management to an upcoming package of sanctions measures, according to Reuters. 

If Sun Ship Management is sanctioned, the beneficial owners of its fleet could still transfer shipmanagement to new holding companies, reflag with less-regulated registries, and restart operations in the "dark fleet" of gray-market tankers serving the Russian oil trade. According to Bloomberg, the number of tankers that operate "dark" - with AIS frequently disabled - is now in the range of 600 vessels worldwide, about twice the number seen last year.