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Shipping targeted as regulators seek to tighten Russian sanctions

Regulators appear to be gearing up for an enforcement campaign following an unprecedented influx of sanctions targeting Russia, and shipping is considered a primary target

Europe is considering targeting vessels switching off their AIS as part of a package of sanctions against Russia due next month. Early drafts are circulating, but concerns over enforcement practicalities may yet see the plan downgraded to an advisory notice, echoing similar moves from the US

THE European Union and the US are looking to target the shipping industry as regulators consider mechanisms to tighten sanctions measures against Russia.

As part of the 11th sanctions package being prepared by the European Commission, officials are exploring how they could target vessels turning off Automatic Identification System signals.

While the current package of measures is still being finalised, proposals to include the targeting of vessels switching off AIS signals features in a draft set of measures being circulated among member state officials. 

The focus of the package will be to further close loopholes and deal with the circumvention of existing restrictions, including by companies in third countries.

The headline proposals are understood to include extending the list of banned goods transiting through Russia, however the AIS focus is being considered in the wake of increased interest in AIS spoofing and manipulation from the US.

The US Treasury last week issued an advisory notice amid reports that some companies had been involved in Russian oil trades that may have breached the oil price cap.

The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control claimed that US shipping service providers could have been duped by false documentation or spoofing of AIS signals to disguise tanker calls to Russia’s eastern ports, including Kozmino.

While no official guidance on enforcement actions have been issued by any US government agency, Lloyd’s List has been told by well-placed officials that a “disruption” of the dark fleet’s opaque operations is now seen as a priority.

Lloyd’s List understands that US, EU and UK officials are co-operating closely on the issue, however it is not yet clear whether the EU will have sufficient internal support to keep the AIS targeting in the final draft of the next sanctions package. 



European shipping industry representatives have already raised concerns that any proposed mechanism requiring AIS monitoring would be very difficult to enforce, particularly with non-EU flagged vessels.

Even those EU officials supporting the inclusion of the current draft AIS proposal have privately conceded that the complications regarding enforcement may ultimately see the proposal drop off this package during negotiations.

The proposals need the backing of all member states to be adopted and could change before they are formally presented to diplomatic envoys or during discussions to agree the package.

If that does happen it remains a possibility for the commission to include reference to AIS manipulation in the so-called FAQ clarification documents that will follow the publication of the 11th package of sanctions. These could replicate the warning issues by Ofac last week.

According to several media reports citing early drafts of the EU sanctions drafts, the suite of measures is also expected to include about 30 new listings as well as further restrictions on several firms and entities.

It is not yet clear whether any of those targeted will be maritime businesses or vessels, however Lloyd’s List understands that US officials have made clear their desire to see more countries such as the UK and EU designate shipping targets.

Proposals for the EU package are expected to take several weeks to emerge and more substantive drafts are not expected to be ready until next week with the final package expected to be announced in late May.


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