A cargo of Russian oil is heading for storage tanks in Ghana, a nation that exports crude itself and is on the doorstep of two regional supply powerhouses.
The development suggests that traders could be scouring the market for new buyers of Russian barrels after the European Union stopped almost all seaborne imports from the country in December. The bloc’s measures made Moscow hugely reliant on Chinese and Indian purchases.
The tanker Theseus arrived in Ghana’s territorial waters on Friday carrying about 600,000 barrels of Russian oil from a port in the Black Sea, according to tanker tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.
Its cargo was due to be pumped into storage tanks in Tema, people with knowledge of the matter said. The last signal from the vessel was on Sunday evening, by which time unloading had not begun.
Russia is under pressure to sustain its oil revenue after the Group of Seven and the European Union imposed punishing sanctions on the country’s energy industry.
Almost all European Union companies are prohibited from buying Russian crude and petroleum products, or providing important services such as insurance to nations that buy such exports above a capped price.
In December, Russia’s petroleum revenues dropped nearly 20% from the previous month after the price cap triggered big discounts on the nation’s crude, according to the International Energy Agency.
The crude will be stored at tanks at the Tema Oil Refinery, the people said. The firm didn’t respond to requests for comment.
When the tanker was en route to the country, the CEO of Ghana’s National Petroleum Authority said the shipment would be blocked if it was bound for the country. The NPA didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment after it reached the west African nation’s territorial waters.
The shipment to Tema would be the first time Russian oil has been delivered to a West African country since at least October 2018, tracking data show.
Ghana itself is small oil exporter, shipping an average of about 140,000 barrels a day over the past six months, according to tanker tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. It’s also next to Nigeria and Angola, the two biggest suppliers in sub-Saharan Africa.
After sanctions were imposed on Russia, the nation directed crude exports toward China and India, upending global oil flows and the maritime industry.
With Europe previously having been by far the largest market for Russian oil, that narrowed the nation’s pool of buyers dramatically. It also meant the barrels had to be discounted at the point of export to compensate for relatively high delivery costs.