Six months into Russia’s war on Ukraine, Russia’s oil output has continued to exceed expectations. According to data from the Institute of International Finance (IIF), Russian oil shipments hit their highest ever August level this month, with Greek-owned tankers playing the biggest role in helping Russia’s oil get to international markets. IIF chief economist Robin Brooks has tweeted that the capacity of oil tankers departing Russian ports–a proxy for exports–came in at just under 160 million barrels in August, more than in any August in any prior year.
“Russia exports most of its crude via foreign-owned oil tankers. Volume of those shipments in August 2022 exceeds any prior year, thanks to Greek-owned oil tankers who shifted capacity to transport Russian oil,” Brooks has told Business Insider.
A couple of months ago, Refinitiv Eikon via Reuters reported that Greece has emerged as a new hub for Russian oil via ship-to-ship (STS) loadings. Trading Russian crude and oil products remain legal for now because EU members cannot seem to agree on the methodology of a complete ban.
For all the tough talk about abandoning Russian energy commodities, Russia is still managing to sell a good amount of its oil and gas, thanks to the fact that some of the world’s biggest commodity traders have little compunction against financing Putin’s war machine.
According to ship tracking and port data, Switzerland’s Vitol, Glencore, and Gunvoras well as Singapore’s Trafigura, have all continued to lift large volumes of Russian crude and products, including diesel.
Vitol has pledged to stop buying Russian crude by the end of this year, but that’s still a long way from today. Trafigura said it would stop buying crude from Russia’s state-run Rosneft by May 15th, but is free to buy cargoes of Russian crude from other suppliers. Glencore has said it wouldn’t enter any “new” trading business with Russia. Meanwhile, India and China are making up for much of the losses for Russia.
A lot of the blame falls on Switzerland. The lion’s share of Russian raw materials is traded via Switzerland and its nearly 1,000 commodity firms.