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Sailing Past the Cap: Russia’s Oil Trade Still Strong with Western Ships

While the West aimed to squeeze Russia’s oil revenue without constraining the global supply, it seems the restrictions have yet to dock Moscow’s economic vessel. Despite the G7 imposing a $60 price cap on Russia’s flagship crude last December, a recent price hike in Urals crude oil suggests the restrictions aren’t water-tight.

Just this month, the Urals crude oil took a slight step back from its $73-per-barrel pinnacle but stayed notably above the G7’s red line. The cap’s design stipulated that once this threshold was passed, Russia wouldn’t be able to anchor onto G7, EU, or US service support. However, the tides tell a different tale.

Even post the mid-July price escalation, a significant 40% of Western-backed tankers, having undergone just a modest decline from their earlier 50%, continued loading up on Russian crude. More surprisingly, Western insurers, who earlier cast their net over 60% of the Russian shipping fleet, still held onto a substantial 45%, despite the cap breach.

Diving deeper, the ambiguity surrounding the price cap’s practical application might be responsible for these surprising statistics. Bloomberg points to the requirement for servicing firms associated with Russian cargo. They must clutch an attestation—a written assurance confirming the commodity’s purchase below the cap. The catch? Firms are expected to place unwavering trust in this piece of paper, which often presents validity concerns. G7 expects these firms to further confirm their due diligence, but the maze of comparing long-term deals with dynamic market prices often deters such endeavors.

Let’s not forget, this price cap only ropes in firms within the G7, EU, and US coalition. Russia’s sails remain free to catch the wind from trades with external partners at potentially higher prices. Despite battling domestic challenges like labor deficits and a plummeting ruble, Russia seems poised to benefit from these higher commodity prices.

In an intriguing twist, Russia might also be navigating its way to profits via a loophole. The Financial Times suggests that by strategically ramping up its shipping costs, the nation could have pocketed a cool $1.2 billion.

For entrepreneurs and investors, the situation emphasizes the importance of understanding global economic intricacies and regulations. While the G7’s intention was clear, the actual execution and results provide a stark reminder that navigating international trade waters requires vigilance, insight, and adaptability.

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