Turkish terminal freezes Russian oil business

Turkish terminal freezes Russian oil business
Dortyol's been the subject of complaints from disgruntled US senators. / GTS, globalterminal-tr.com
By bne IntelliNews March 5, 2024

Mid-sized Turkish oil trans-shipment terminal Dortyol—at the centre of controversy in January when US senators claimed that “masked Russian oil” supplied via the facility even ended up in US warships after being processed at a Greek refinery—is reportedly to no longer accept Russian imports.

Dortyol, a Mediterranean terminal run by Global Terminal Services (GTS), received record Russian crude volumes last year. GTS’ reported move to end such shipments comes amid an increase in Ukraine War-related sanctions pressure applied by the US.

"GTS decided to cut all possible connections to Russian oil and declared accordingly to its customers in late February 2024 that even if there is no breach of any laws, regulations or sanctions, it would not accept any product of Russian origin or any products loaded from Russian ports as an additional measure to the sanction rules in effect," GTS told Reuters.

Turkey has grown into one of the biggest importers of Russian crude and fuel since February 2022, when the West hit Moscow with sanctions in response to its invasion of Ukraine. Since then, Russia has been re-routing oil away from Europe and the US to Asia, Turkey and Africa.

In its statement, GTS said that all previous operations were in full compliance with sanctions including the G7's price cap.

"GTS's new approach is an additional measure to eliminate the effects of activities that are beyond its reach and control despite the efforts to comply with all applicable sanctions," GTS added.

A US move unveiled in December to strike financial firms enabling doing business with secondary sanctions may have chilled Turkish-Russian trade. Turkish exports to Russia were down by a third in the first two months of this year, according to official Turkish statistics, while Turkish payments for Russian oil have been disrupted or slowed in some cases.

The Dortyol terminal imports, exports and stores fuel and crude. It received 11.74mn barrels of Russian crude and fuel last year, data from shipping analytics firm Kpler show.

Reuters said the imports made Dortyol Turkey's seventh largest import terminal by volume, up from 10th plae in 2021. Its 2023 Russian crude and fuel imports, said the news agency, were around seven times higher than the total volume it received from all origins in 2021.

The terminal’s exports also leapt in 2023. They jumped almost fivefold from pre-Ukraine invasion year 2021 to approximately 24.7mn barrels, according to Kpler.

GTS said it would still accept Russian cargoes nominated before its ban took effect in late-February.

Ankara opposes Western sanctions on Moscow, though it has been critical of Russia's waging of war on Ukraine. The Erdogan administration’s approach to the Ukraine conflict involves maintaining amicable ties with both Moscow and Kyiv. It argues that in the event of there being an opening for peace talks, Turkey, a Black Sea neighbour of both Russia and Ukraine, could serve as a mediator trusted by both parties.

However, Western capitals have grown increasingly unsettled by the economic opportunities Turkey has exploited as a country not placing sanctions on Russia, especially as regards claims that flows of dual-use technologies—items that can be ostensibly acquired for civilian purposes before being redirected for use in the making of military equipment—to Russian buyers from, or via, Turkey have become important to the Vladimir Putin regime’s equipping of its war machine.