India providing safety certification for Russian shipping group Sovcomflot’s fleet

India is providing safety certification for dozens of ships managed by a subsidiary of top Russian shipping group Sovcomflot, Reuters reports. The certification is enabling oil exports to India and elsewhere after Western certifiers withdrew their services due to global sanctions against Moscow.

Certification by the Indian Register of Shipping (IRClass), one of the world’s top classification companies, provides a final link in the paperwork chain – after insurance coverage – needed to keep state-owned Sovcomflot’s tanker fleet afloat and delivering Russian crude oil to overseas markets.

Data compiled from the IRClass website shows that it has certified more than 80 ships managed by SCF Management Services (Dubai) Ltd, a Dubai-based entity listed as a subsidiary on Sovcomflot’s website. Classification societies certify that ships are safe and seaworthy, which is essential for securing insurance and for gaining access to ports.

Russia’s crude oil sector, hit by strict sanctions due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, has been forced to seek buyers outside the West while turning to Russian transporters and insurers to handle its exports.

India, which has refrained from condemning Russia given its longstanding security ties, has sharply boosted Russian crude oil purchases in recent months. Western sanctions against Russia prompted many oil importers to shun trade with Moscow, pushing spot prices for Russian crude to record discounts against other grades.

That provided Indian refiners, which rarely used to buy Russian oil due to high freight costs, an opportunity to snap up low-priced crude. Russian grades accounted for about 16.5% of India’s overall oil imports in May, compared with about 1% in all of 2021. India’s ship certifier is one of 11 members of the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS), top-tier certifiers that account for more than 90% of the world’s cargo-carrying tonnage. The four leading IACS members, from the UK, Norway, France and the United States, have stopped services to Russian companies due to the sanctions.

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