Russian Oil’s Seaborne Export Geography
Assessing the radically differentiated effects of post-invasion sanctions on Russia’s geographically vast tanker exporting regions
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This incredibly detailed tanker-level data allows me to dig even deeper into regional and port-level flows and is invaluable in the analysis of complex geographic realities like those facing Russia’s vast sector—this post is a first look at the types of research I’m excited to add to the analytical repertoire going forward. (Clicking the link also helps out Commodity Context!)
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As the sanctions noose continues to tighten and cut off Moscow from the traditional buyers of its petroleum exports, it is valuable to break down Russia’s monolithic seaborne oil industry into four major shipping regions—Baltic, Black Sea, Arctic, and Far East—to assess idiosyncratic post-sanction realities.
From the Baltic and Arctic regions, the vast majority of exports were heading to North and Northwestern Europe before the invasion and, now, these two regions stand out in terms of the post-sanctions reshuffling and the growing dominance of India buying, which has forced ships to travel far further on far longer voyages.
The Black Sea region has benefited from less prior dependence on Western European exports and a pronounced shift in export volumes toward friendly Turkish shores, more captive Black Sea neighbors, and as well as yet more shipments to India.
The Far East region has, arguably, been least burdened by sanctions with flows of crude that historically landed in South Korea and Japan instead hitting the relatively nearby shores of China.
In the face of multiple, ongoing, and ever-tightening sanctions targeting Russian oil and gas following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, this post aims to break down Russia’s petroleum export sector, which is one of the industry’s largest and most varied and, literally, spans multiple continents.
Russia has a vast network of pipelines that is responsible for getting its crude from where it’s produced, largely within Russia’s interior, to where it’s exported to end consumers. However, unlike a country like Canada where virtually all its crude gets to its final destination by pipe alone, the vast majority of Russia’s pipelines lead to tidewater where barrels finish their journey by tanker, yielding a far more flexible system.
This means, using tanker tracking data from Vortexa, we can quite successfully dissect the specific impacts of Western sanctions on each of Russia’s seaborne exporting regions. For instance, shipments from Russia’s Far Eastern ports were relatively seamless in their shift toward China from OECD Asia, while ships departing Russia’s Western ports—historically supporting largely short journeys to Europe—have had to grapple with far more logistically onerous marketing options like the far further voyage to India.
Russia’s monolithic seaborne oil export industry can be broken down into four major and distinct shipping regions—Baltic, Black Sea, Arctic, and Far East—so that we can assess how each region has fared in the aftermath of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. There is no doubt that the greatest transformation in export destinations has occurred in the Baltic and Arctic regions, although all regions have been uniquely impacted by post-invasion realities.
Going forward, this regional-level understanding of seaborne export flows will be critical to understanding the further evolution of Russian shipments as the sanctions noose continues to tighten and cut off Moscow from its traditional and geographically proximate customers.