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Turkey is stopping oil not under Russian sanctions, raising global energy market supply concerns

Cargo ships and vessels transit the Bosphorus Strait, a body of water connecting the Black Sea to the Marmara and Mediterranean Seas through Istanbul, Turkey. Above, the Russia-flagged vessel Volga River Taganrog oil tanker passes south through the Bosphorus Straits in October 2022.

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Tankers full of Kazakh oil are tangled in delays traveling through the Bosphorus Strait as a result of Turkey’s new proof of insurance measures for vessels carrying Russian oil now subject to EU sanctions and a G7 nation price cap.

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Kazakh oil goes by pipeline through Russia and is loaded onto tankers at the port of Novorossiysk. Officials can track the origin of the oil on the bill of lading.

“It appears that all but one of the roughly twenty loaded crude tankers waiting to cross the straits are carrying Kazakh-origin oil,” a price cap official told CNBC. “These cargoes would not be subject to the price cap under any scenario, and there should be no change in the status of their insurance from Kazakh shipments in previous weeks or months,” said the official, who was granted anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the geopolitical issues.

Based on the number of vessels, over 20 million barrels of oil equaling $1.2 billion is stuck.

New Turkish insurance rules on oil tankers carrying Russian crude have slowed down the movement of tankers off the coast of Turkey and between Russia’s Black Sea ports and the Mediterranean since earlier this week when the price cap and sanctions first went into effect. 

If delays mount, refiners will seek alternative supplies from other countries or they will reduce operating capacity because they don’t have enough oil, which impacts the supply of gasoline and diesel, said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates.

“If this continues for another week we will begin to see an impact on the oil market,” Lipow said.

Buyers of Kazah oil include Asia, Europe, and some quantities on the U.S. East Coast.

Tanker wait times increasing

“We can see a growing list of crude and chemical tankers waiting to cross the Bosphorous from either side, with a variety of reported AIS destinations, including mainly Turkey and Russia, but also Ukraine, Georgia, Italy,” said Nikos Pothitakis, spokesperson for MarineTraffic. “The vessels in question are mainly flagged by the Russia, Greece, Liberia and Marshall Islands registries.”

On Wednesday, U.S. Treasury Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo spoke with Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal to discuss the implementation of the price cap on Russian seaborne oil. Adeyemo stressed the price cap regime only applies to oil of Russian origin and does not necessitate additional checks on ships passing through Turkish territorial waters, according to a statement from Treasury. Both officials said a simple compliance regime by Turkey to permit seaborne oil to transit the Turkish straits would help keep the global energy markets well-supplied.

“The price cap policy does not require ships to seek unique insurance guarantees for each individual voyage, as required under Turkey’s rule,” said the price cap official to CNBC. “These disruptions are the result of Turkey’s rule, not the price cap policy.”


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