Sanctions damaging safety at sea, says sanctioned ship group Sovcomflot

LONDON (Reuters) – Sanctions on shipping companies are undermining safety at sea and pose dangers for trade as ship standards are impacted, the chief executive of sanctioned Russian shipping group Sovcomflot said.

The European Union imposed sanctions on Russia’s state-owned and top tanker company Sovcomflot (SCF) and its CEO Igor Tonkovidov, according to the measures published in the EU’s Official Journal on Monday.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Treasury’s enforcement arm OFAC separately designated 14 crude oil tankers as property in which Sovcomflot has an interest.

“Sovcomflot is genuinely disappointed that high-quality safe maritime transportation is sacrificed for short-term geopolitical motivations, which certainly does not contribute to improving the safety of maritime transportation, especially in European waters,” Tonkovidov said in comments sent to Reuters on Tuesday.

“SCF strongly objects (to the) separation of the world’s trade fleet into antagonistic camps, destruction of safety culture and values gained by maritime industry over the past decades.”

Tonkovidov said the group would “certainly continue to adhere to the highest standards.”

His comments were first reported by shipping publication Tradewinds.

In April, Tonkovidov told reporters that sanctions had impacted the company’s operations, “limiting our geography and commercial prospects”.

SCF, which was previously one of the world’s leading tanker operators, transported 75 million metric tons of oil in 2023, mainly to the markets of China, India and the Mediterranean.

Western sanctions imposed on Russia have prompted the exit of international service companies such as ship engine makers and also safety certifiers, which have added to challenges for the country’s fleet.

Global shipping industry officials have also warned of the safety dangers posed by hundreds of ageing and unregulated tankers in the so-called shadow fleet transporting oil from countries hit by sanctions and other restrictions including Russia, Iran and Venezuela.

(Reporting by Jonathan Saul in London and Gleb Stolyarov in Russia; Editing by Matthew Lewis)