Obscure Players Dominate Russian Shipping, Oil Trade

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As much as 50% of Russia’s oil exports — both crude and products — are being handled by a group of little-known trading companies, mostly domiciled in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, that appear to have discreet Russian backing. Based on feedback from trading sources with access to port data, Energy Intelligence has identified more than 50 separate entities lifting Russian oil in recent months, of which at least two-thirds are Dubai-based. Among the most active are companies that did not exist before Russia invaded Ukraine in February, 2022. These include Tejarinaft (meaning "oil trade" in Arabic), which for more than a year has been a regular offtaker both of Urals crude shipped from the Baltic and Black Seas and Espo blend from the Far East, and is also one of the largest shippers of Russian products. The CEO of Tejarinaft, a Moroccan national, Hicham Fazizi, who also heads up Energopole, the former Geneva-based trading arm of Russian giant Rosneft, has little prior background in oil trading. Other prominent players in the Russian oil trade are equally obscure, such as Voliton Trade and Pontus Trading, both of which are domiciled at the Dubai Multi-Commodities Centre, a business group that counts dozens of Russian-focused traders among its members. The two companies are especially active in supplying crude and products to Turkey, according to multiple trading sources. There are also under-the-radar companies registered in Hong Kong that trade Russian oil, including Covart Energy and Guron Trading. In keeping with their secrecy, most of these companies did not respond to requests for comment, though Pontus said it was “not involved” in the Russian business, without elaborating.

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