Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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The Shipping Tycoon Profiting from Russia’s Oil

In an environment where most Western shipping companies have halted the movement of Russian oil due to sanctions, one Greek shipping magnate has found an opportunity to profit. George Economou, a 70-year-old shipping tycoon, is at the forefront of a group of Greek tanker owners capitalizing on this unique situation.

One of Economou’s companies, TMS Tankers, has transported tens of millions of barrels of Russia’s crude and fuel since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, making it the second-largest player in the trade of transporting Russian oil, only behind Russia’s state-owned Sovcomflot. This has allowed the Greek shipping industry to flourish, despite increasing criticism from Ukraine.

Despite the scrutiny, the U.S. and its allies are still interested in allowing Russian oil to flow to keep global prices down. As a result, a carve-out was created in the sanctions, permitting Russian oil to travel on Western ships as long as the shipments didn’t provide a windfall for the Kremlin. However, many U.S. and Northern European shipowners have pulled back, fearing reputational damage or getting caught up in the sanctions. In contrast, Greek firms, mostly privately owned, have shown few such concerns.

This lucrative business has netted between $4 million and $5 million in profit for each 60-day voyage from the Baltic Sea to India – the busiest route – and back, according to shipbrokers and rival owners. The Greek shipping industry has a long history of navigating geopolitical crises, and it seems that the current situation with Russian oil is no exception.

As the price of Russia’s flagship grade of oil, the Urals creeps up, it threatens to trade above the G-7 cap. If this occurs, Greek shipping companies could face pressure to pull out of the Russian oil trade. Nevertheless, for now, George Economou and other Greek shipping tycoons have found a narrow lane of business that serves both the economic interests of Russia and the U.S., making the most of a high-risk opportunity that many competitors dare not attempt.