HOUSTON/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two oil tankers owned and managed by Sovcomflot, the Russian maritime and freight shipping company that the United States blacklisted last week, are rerouting from their Canadian destinations, while another is returning to Russia after discharging, according to tracking data and marine sources.
The two tankers are the first Russian-owned oil vessels to change course after Canada this week ratcheted up pressure on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine by shutting ports to Russian-owned ships and barring them from Canadian waters.
The Liberia-flagged tanker SCF Neva carrying crude oil changed course from Canada’s Saint John port on Thursday and is now headed to the Caribbean, sources and vessel data show.
The vessel loaded crude oil at Colombia’s Mamonal port in mid-February. After stopping at a storage terminal in St. Eustatius it was due to continue to the Port of St. John in New Brunswick, Canada, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.
A refined products tanker chartered by Suncor, the SCF Ussuri, has slowed down on Thursday and is currently near the Gulf of St. Lawrence after suspending its original route to Montreal, Canada, according to vessel data and sources.
The vessel loaded at New York on Feb. 24 and was due to arrive in Montreal on March 1. As the SCF Ussuri loaded in the U.S. East Coast, it cannot return to the United States without violating the Jones Act.
“It’s incredibly confusing for where these ships go, whether they will be received or not and if ports will accept them,” said Dan Yergin, vice chairman of energy research and consultancy IHS Markit.
The Biden administration is considering following Canada in barring Russian ships from U.S. ports, a government official said on Wednesday.
A third Sovcomflot tanker that was also near a North American terminal, the SCF Yenisei, changed its destination on Thursday to return to Russia’s Vanino port after discharging refined product earlier this month at the port of Anacortes, on the U.S. West Coast, according to the Eikon data.
As countries impose formal and informal restrictions on Russian vessels, many might be also rerouted to Asia, Yergin added.
Russian-flagged ships represent a very small percentage of U.S. traffic, but barring Russian cargo from the United States would have a dramatically larger impact. It was not clear if the administration is seriously considering that more drastic step.
(Reporting by Marianna Parraga in Houston and Laura Sanicola in Washington; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Lisa Shumaker)