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Despite Putin’s atrocities in Ukraine, insurers enable the export of 40 million barrels of Russian oil

24 February and 21 March 2022, more than 360 ships discharged a staggering
quantity of fossil fuels loaded from Russian ports. According to statistics
accessed via the financial data provider Refinitiv on March 22 2022, these vessels

  • 39.3 million barrels of crude oil;      
  • 7.52 million barrels of fuel oil;
  • 473,000 tonnes of liquefied natural gas; and
  • 2.82 million tonnes
    of coal.

The sale of
these fossil fuels has helped fund
Russia’s brutal war
on Ukraine, which has killed thousands and created millions of
refugees. Refinitiv data shows that every one of these vessels were insured by one
or more of the 13 “protection and indemnity” insurance associations that
form the International Group of P&I Clubs (IGP&I). (Only one of these
13 clubs, the Shipowners’ Mutual Protection & Indemnity Association
(Luxembourg), did not appear in Global Witness’s analysis of these shipments.)

These 13
P&I clubs provide liability cover for 90% of the world’s seaborne cargo – cover that was
apparently extended to the ships carrying this conflict fuel. The insurance
provided by these clubs is required by EU law and international conventions,
and makes it possible for such fossil fuel cargoes to be transported by sea.

Protection and indemnity clubs are mutual insurance associations
that are owned by their members, including the shipowners and managers
themselves. They are not answerable to shareholders, and write their own

While some of these clubs have reminded
their members to comply
with sanctions and alerted
them to local shipping conditions near Ukraine, none have excluded Russian
fossil fuels from coverage. IGP&I itself has also remained publicly silent on the
group’s clubs providing cover to chartering and shipping these conflict fuels.
But it has responded
to criticism
from Oleg Ustenko, economic advisor to Ukrainian president
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in a letter seen by Global Witness.

“If the 13 International Group Clubs did collectively
withdraw or terminate their insurance cover arrangements with shipowners who
carry Russian fossil fuels, the impact would likely have some immediate effect
on the volume of such fuels carried by sea”,
the IGP&I wrote. However,
the group asserted, this would likely only result in a “limited short-term
hiatus” as a “determined tanker owner” set on transporting Russian fossil fuels
could arrange alternate insurance from a different organization.

Bombs are currently falling on Ukraine. There is no excuse
for continuing to underwrite an industry that fuels the destruction of an
entire country as well as our shared climate.

Global Witness asked all 13 international clubs whether they
will now exclude shipowners carrying Russian fossil fuels from coverage. Only
Gard responded. Its spokesperson said: “Withdrawing [protection
and indemnity] protections may reduce shipments of certain cargoes in the
immediate short term but it may also have the unintended consequence of
exposing innocent third parties to risks for which they would otherwise be
compensated if insurance cover were allowed to continue. It is our role as
insurer in these difficult and turbulent times to effectively protect people,
property and the environment while ensuring that all relevant regulations and
sanctions are followed.”

The enablers of Russia’s trade in oil, gas, and coal are
propping up a regime that murders innocent civilians even as it drives the
climate crisis. These companies now have a choice. Exclude Russian fossil fuels
from their business or remain complicit in Putin’s war crimes against the
Ukrainian people.

Sanctions of Russian entities and people are evolving
rapidly. Global Witness makes no suggestion that IGP&I, its clubs, or any
insured member has violated sanctions.

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