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Sanctioned Crude Oil Tanker Docks at Exxon Refinery in Houston 

sanctioned oil tanker
Yasa Golden Bosphorus was permitted to dock in Houston after being listed for violations of the Russian oil price cap (Yasa Group file photo)

Published Oct 18, 2023 1:14 PM by The Maritime Executive

A crude oil tanker recently sanctioned by the U.S. as part of the first crackdown on Russian oil under the price cap program is being permitted to dock in Houston, Texas to offload its current cargo. The Aframax tanker Yasa Golden Bosphorus arrived off Houston Wednesday morning, October 18, and is now proceeding to the terminal at ExxonMobil's Baytown Refinery, one of the large oil refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Exxon Mobile said in a statement that the company was not the target of the U.S. sanctions announced last week and that it had chartered the vessel from Turkey’s Yasa Group months after the incident cited by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. 

The Yasa Golden Bosphorus is a 16-year-old crude oil tanker registered in the Marshall Islands. She is 115,000 dwt managed by Yasa from Turkey. 

U.S. authorities last week accused the tanker of having transported Eastern Siberia Pacific Oil from Russia. They did not specify the timeframe only saying that the vessel had carried the oil priced above $80 per barrel in violation of the G7 sanctions which set a price limit of $60 per barrel. They listed both the vessel as well as her registered owners Ice Pearl Navigation Corp. in the first enforcement action for the price cap. The same announcement also cited a Sovcomflot tanker, SCF Primorye, which they contended carried Novy Port crude oil priced above $75 per barrel from a port in the Russian Federation.

OFAC said it would continue to monitor activity related to the Russian price cap closely. As a result of listing the tankers, U.S. entities were blocked from using the assets and had to report to OFAC. All transactions by U.S. entities that involve any of the property or interests in property of designated or blocked persons are prohibited unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, or exempt.

The Yasa Golden Bosphorus according to her AIS signal had departed the St. Victoire de Sorel Terminal in Canada on October 5, well before the U.S. announced that they were blocking the tanker on October 12. Exxon has repeatedly said that the vessel is loaded with oil of Canadian origin and as such not part of the sanctions. Both Exxon and Yasa are asserting that they are not dealing in Russian oil and Yasa said it has not carried Russian oil on its tankers for more than a year.

The tanker is being permitted by OFAC to offload in Houston. Yasa, however, says the vessel is under charter to Exxon for three to five months although it is unclear how long the charter has been active. It is also unclear if the vessel would be permitted to continue to trade or if it is a one-time license.