The U.S. on Thursday imposed sanctions on maritime companies and vessels for shipping Russian oil sold above the G7's price cap, as Washington seeks to close loopholes in the mechanism designed to punish Moscow for its war in Ukraine.
The U.S. Treasury Department in a statement said it slapped sanctions on three United Arab Emirates-based companies and three vessels owned by them in the action, accusing the vessels of engaging in the export of Russian crude oil priced above the $60 a barrel cap. It said the vessels used U.S.-person services while transporting the Russian-origin crude oil.
The U.S., other Group of Seven (G7) countries and Australia imposed the cap last year, seeking to reduce Russia's revenues from seaborne oil exports as part of sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine.
While the cap on crude has been in place for around a year and is aimed at restricting the Kremlin's oil revenues, robust global oil prices this year and Moscow’s growing usage of shadow tankers’ fleet have meant that much of Russian oil has traded above the cap.
The cap bans Western companies from providing maritime services, including insurance, finance and shipping, for Russian seaborne oil exports sold above $60 a barrel, while seeking to keep oil flowing to markets. Caps also were imposed on Russian fuel exports.
“Shipping companies and vessels participating in the Russian oil trade while using Price Cap Coalition service providers should fully understand that we will hold them accountable for compliance,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in the statement.
“We are committed to maintaining market stability in spite of Russia’s war against Ukraine, while cutting into the profits the Kremlin is using to fund its illegal war and remaining unyielding in our pursuit of those facilitating evasion of the price cap.”
Russia's embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Thursday's action freezes any U.S. assets of those targeted and generally bars Americans from dealing with them.
The UAE-based firms targeted are Kazan Shipping Incorporated, Progress Shipping Company Limited and Gallion Navigation Incorporated.
The Liberian-flagged ships hit with sanctions are the Kazan, Ligovsky Prospect, and NS Century, according to the Treasury Department.
Global oil prices LCOc1 have risen to around $85 a barrel in recent months on production cuts and thin world spare production capacity. That has helped to limit the efficacy of the cap, but the coalition can toughen enforcement to make it more effective, according to people who advised the Treasury.
Russian crude and oil product exports dropped by 70,000 barrels per day in October to 7.5 million barrels per day, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a report on Tuesday.
It added that estimated export revenues fell $25 million to $18.34 billion, while Russian crude and product prices were mainly above the G7 price cap.
Thursday's action comes after the U.S. in October imposed the first sanctions on owners of tankers carrying Russian oil priced above the cap, one in Turkey and one in the United Arab Emirates.
A senior Treasury official warned at the time that Washington would take action in the coming weeks and months in an effort to increase Russia's costs and weaken Russia's ability to sustain the war in Ukraine.