UAE bans tankers with Cameroon flag that often carry sanctioned Russian oil

UAE bans tankers with Cameroon flag that often carry sanctioned Russian oil
Tankers bearing Cameroon's flag are often used to carry Russian oil and help dodge Western sanctions - but these vessels often fail safety inspections.
2 min read
10 January, 2024
Cameroon-flagged vessels often carry Russian oil that is subject to heavy sanctions [Dmytro Smolyenko/Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty]

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has banned ships bearing the flag of Cameroon from sailing from its waters, amid concerns over the safety of the vessels.

Vessels registered under the flag of the Central African country cannot use UAE waters or ports, a statement from the UAE's energy and infrastructure ministry released last week read. 

Already on the list were vessels bearing the flags of eight other countries - Albania, Belize, North Korea, Sao Tome and Principe, Tonga, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Tanzania.

The ministry said that ships bearing these flags can only travel through UAE waters if they are classified by a member of the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS), a maritime safety body.

Russia has been using a fleet of tankers with flags from other countries to transport oil and circumvent US sanctions placed on them in recent years, including those put in place since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Among the vessels in this fleet are those registered with the flag of Cameroon.

Cameroon-flagged tankers are also reportedly notorious for failing safety checks by relevant maritime bodies.

Vessels bearing the Cameroon flag carry less than 1% of Russia's total oil shipments, according to Bloomberg.

Gulf states have been on especially high alert over vessels in their waters in recent weeks, as the Houthi rebels conduct attacks on Israel-linked vessels moving through the Red Sea.

The Yemeni rebel group says that it is conducting the attacks in retaliation against Israel's war on Gaza, in which more than 23,000 people have been killed since its launch on 7 October.

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The attacks have prompted major shipping companies to stop their vessels from travelling through the Red Sea. Some companies are making vessels take a far longer and far more costly route, around South Africa's Cape of Good Hope.

Russia and the UAE share strong ties, with the Gulf state quickly becoming a haven for wealthy Russians looking for an escape from Western sanctions mostly imposed after the invasion of Ukraine.

The UAE has also acted as a mediator in prisoner swaps between Russia and Ukraine, including in an exchange that took place last week.