Russian seaborne oil exports reached a three-month high last week, defying Western sanctions and Russia’s own decision to extend supply cuts until the end of the year, according to tanker-tracking data reported by Bloomberg on Tuesday.
The data revealed that Russia’s average nationwide shipments in the four weeks leading up to September 17 rose to 3.34 million barrels per day (bpd). This was an increase of approximately 465,000 barrels compared to the previous four-week period ending on August 20. While these figures reflected a return to the levels last seen in February of this year, they still fell short of the peak levels recorded in April and June by 390,000 bpd. Notably, the largest increases in shipments were observed at the Baltic ports of Primorsk and Ust-Luga, as well as Novorossiysk on the Black Sea.
The surge in exports primarily came from tankers with no predetermined destination. Industry experts suggest that most of these shipments ultimately end up in India or China. On average, total flows of crude bound for China, India, “unknown Asia,” and “other unknown” destinations amounted to 2.7 million bpd during the four-week period.
In contrast, Russia’s seaborne crude exports to the European Union (EU) remained unchanged at 146,000 bpd during the reporting period, with Bulgaria being the sole recipient of these shipments. However, exports to Türkiye, formerly known as Turkey, saw a notable increase to about 220,000 bpd, marking the highest level since June.
The rise in Russia’s oil shipments was not entirely unexpected. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak had announced last month that while Moscow would prolong its supply cut, the volume reduction would be lowered to 300,000 bpd from the previous 500,000 bpd in August. However, Bloomberg pointed out that actual shipments increased more than twice as much as anticipated from this change.
Russia initially announced its intention to reduce oil output by 500,000 bpd in February in response to Western sanctions, which included an EU embargo on Russian seaborne crude exports and the G7’s imposition of a $60 per-barrel price ceiling on Russian oil. Despite these sanctions, Russia has been able to find reliable buyers among Asian countries, especially India and China, which have been the largest purchasers of Russian crude for several months.
This latest data indicates that Russia continues to find ways to maintain its oil exports at a substantial level, even in the face of sanctions and supply curbs. The diversification of buyer countries and the increased reliance on tanker shipments with no specified destination demonstrate Russia’s ability to adapt and find alternative markets for its valuable natural resource.