Greenpeace Tanker Tracker Twitter header

Supertanker with Russian oil due in UK today despite ban

Image credit: Greenpeace

At least 148 supertankers carrying Russian oil and gas have left the country since Vladimir Putin’s army invaded Ukraine two weeks ago, with 69 of them headed for European port destinations, according to a Greenpeace analysis of shipping data.

The environmental group has launched a beta version of its 'Russian Tanker Tracker' on Twitter - @RUTankerTracker - which uses shipping data to monitor supertankers delivering fossil fuels from the country.

The fully automated Twitter tracker has been created by Greenpeace and aims to track the large oil and gas tankers (deadweight tonnage equal to or over 50,000 tonnes) that have left a list of Russian oil and gas terminals since Putin invaded Ukraine on February 24.

The tracker pulls data about vessel position from transceivers on board, as well as port calls data for a variety of events including departures, destination, change of destination and arrivals. Twitter posts then are generated from the data using pre-defined templates and automatically posted to the Twitter account.

Data on shipments has been gathered starting from February 24 and the Twitter tracker started issuing alerts earlier this week.

The tanker tracker feed was inspired by the Oligarch Plane Tracker account on Twitter, which monitors any movement of the known private jets of sanctioned Russian oligarchs.

However, tracking ocean-bound supertankers is more inconsistent than with private jets, as the vessels can leave ports without a destination, change destinations en route or simply wait at sea for further orders. In addition, some of the data is based on information submitted by the vessels themselves, who may choose to be selective with the data they share.

Several tankers have left Russian oil and gas ports for the UK since 24 February. Some have been redirected, but others appear to still be en route to Britain. A crude oil tanker, the Seatribute, coming from Russia is due to arrive in Fawley, near Southampton, later today (Friday 11 March), despite the UK government's crackdown on imports of Russian oil and gas. A further two tankers - the CB Caribic and the Baltic Mariner - coming from Russian fossil fuel terminals are due to arrive in the UK in the coming weeks.

Pressure has been mounting on countries to reduce their reliance on Russian fossil fuels as a way to sanction Putin for attacking Ukraine. The UK has declared a ban on the arrival of Russian vessels, but ports have criticised the government for failing to provide a blacklist of banned Russian ships. A loophole has also meant that Russian cargo is still arriving via ships registered to other countries.

Rosie Rogers, head of energy at Greenpeace UK, said: “Our dependence on oil and gas is still fuelling Putin’s war. If ministers are serious about putting a stop to that, then we need to see firmer action on blocking fossil fuel imports from Russia. We hope our Twitter tracker will be a useful tool to anyone who wants to monitor where Putin’s oil and gas are turning up.

“What we really need right now is an 'Emergency Energy Package' from the UK government to end our dependence on gas. Instead of drilling new oil and gas fields in the North Sea, which will take years and make no difference to our energy bills, Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak should be turbocharging speedy, tried and tested solutions like UK renewables, heat pumps and home insulation. That will cut bills, help the climate and weaken Putin’s grip on Europe.”

The Greenpeace tracker makes it possible to see when supertanker shipments of fossil fuels are leaving Russia and when they’re set to arrive in ports in the UK and around the world.

The arrival of Russian gas has already encountered strong opposition in the UK. Last week, a tanker was diverted away from Kent after dockers in the Unison trade union refused to unload it. Shell was also obliged to apologise over its decision to purchase a cargo of Russian crude at a discounted price, with the company now pledging to stop buying oil from Russia.

The UK currently relies on Russia for 5 per cent of its gas imports and 8 per cent of oil imports and earlier this week business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng pledged to phase out the import of Russian oil by the end of the year.

Environmental campaigners are urging ministers to:

  • Announce a £10bn Emergency Energy Package in the Spring Statement, backed by the business secretary, the chancellor and the prime minister to get off gas and stand up to Putin, with a pledge to fund heat pumps, insulation and offer financial support for low-income households during this Parliament.
  • Spring into action: roll out home heating upgrades for seven million homes by 2025; bring back incentives for solar panels; require all new homes to have heat pumps and solar panels, starting immediately.
  • Recruit 45,000 green homes experts: train up 25,000 installation engineers and 20,000 energy specialists to upgrade seven million by 2025 and secure a just transition for fossil fuel workers.
  • Fast-track renewables: turbo-charge onshore wind and solar so they are more than doubled by 2030, making sure all the barriers in place are removed and ensuring support from and for communities affected. Also, accelerate the offshore wind project pipeline, ensuring it is delivered in harmony with nature and biodiversity
  • Gear-up the grid: put in place a smart energy grid fit for the 21st century, that shares energy between European countries to cleanly power economies and has better storage, including clean hydrogen, and flexible demand to securely deal with the shifts in energy production and consumption coming down the line.

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