Staunton, Dec. 15 – To handle its oil exports relying only on its own ships, Valentin Katasonov says, Russia needs 240 of these huge vessels; but at present, it has 60 to 70 less. That is because it stopped building such ships between 1990 and 2014 and now lacks the capacity to ramp up their numbers quickly.
Indeed, recent claims that Moscow has energized its shipbuilding capabilities are overstated because most of the new boats are from South Korean yards and only modified slightly so that Russians can claim they built them, the Moscow commentator says (fondsk.ru/news/2022/12/15/tankernyj-flot-dlja-rossii-vopros-strategicheskij-57959.html).
After the end of the cold war, the Russian authorities assumed that they could use foreign ships to handle oil exports and that they could pay Western companies to ensure even those that they continued to operate either under Russian flag or under the flags of convenience from Cyprus, Malta and Greece.
But that failed policy is now leading to disaster. The West’s sanctions against Russian oil mean not only that it can block the use of ships with EU flags, forcing Russia to reflag them quickly and irregularly but also that the power of Western insurance companies can be deployed against Moscow’s ships as well.
The Russian government can ensure ships but it needs to build more – and the current situation is dangerously unstable. If the West blocks South Korean yards from supplying ships to Russian yards, Russia won’t be producing the large numbers of ships on its own that it so desperately needs.
Katonosov concludes ominously: “The wrecking of the 1990s when the trade fleet of the USSR was destroyed is continuing.”