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Windward publishes report on impact of Russia-Ukraine war on maritime ecosystem and global economy

Posted on: 1 March 2023

Windward, a leading Maritime AI™ company, has published a report offering proprietary insights from their artificial intelligence platform illuminating how Russia’s year-long war with Ukraine has impacted deceptive shipping practices (DSPs), trade routes, and more.

The West has remained relatively unified and measures such as the oil price cap are working: the average monthly number of tankers that had a port call in Russia and subsequently called port in the U.S./EU/UK decreased by 34% post-invasion. But countries such as India, China, and South Korea have obviously not agreed to comply with sanctions and the data shows a significant increase in their engagement with ships that had recently called port in Russia.

Windward says that, additionally, while they did see a significant decrease in direct port calls in the US, EU, and UK from vessels that had called port in Russia, there is a bit of a loophole. Since the war began, the number of shipments arriving through ship-to-ship (STS) engagements has remained steady, despite the oil ban and price cap regulations. This is likely related to the “dark fleet,” a group of vessels operating in the shadows by using DSPs, such as GNSS manipulation, to move sanctioned commodities.

The report’s deep dive into DSPs looks at dark activities, GNSS location manipulation, and more, and is divided into regions: the South Atlantic, the Black Sea, and a new hub for smuggling Russian oil, the Alboran Sea. The Alboran Sea has seen a significant increase in the number of STS operations by crude oil tankers since the war commenced.

A real-life case study of a Cameroon-flagged vessel demonstrates a combination of DSPs that many vessels are now adopting: loitering in areas advantageous for eventual oil smuggling; significant draft changes without registered port calls, indicating semi-dark STS engagements; and GNSS manipulation to obscure actual voyages and locations. The report highlights a key factor for uncovering grain smuggling from Ukraine and details an alleged grain smuggling operation. Lastly, Windward looks at the increasing maritime cooperation between Iran and Russia, analyzing an instructive case study.

Hardly anyone expected a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Once the shock wore off, most experts seemed to think the conflict would end quickly. Geopolitics and the maritime ecosystem are interdependent and complicated, and maritime risk is ever-evolving – this report highlights just how much things have changed in unforeseen ways during the past year.

The insights in this report were generated by predictive analytics and an artificial intelligence platform. Without these tools, keeping up with Russia-related risks (or really any of the maritime risks) in 2023 will prove nearly impossible, due to the sea of data and complexities involved.

With a global recession looming and the West’s economic vice slowly tightening on Russia, expect an increase in deceptive shipping practices, particularly a combination of dark activities, GNSS manipulation, and ship-to-ship meetings. New hubs will continue to pop-up for concealing illicit activities as old ones draw increased scrutiny, and Iran and Russia will strengthen their trade routes. Windward will continue sharing our thought leadership on how organizations throughout the maritime ecosystem can stay aware of mutating maritime risk.

Use this link to view the report in full.

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