Traffic on Russian ships remains strong as sanctions take time to bite

Data from MarineTraffic, for example, a platform that shows the location of ships around the world using these ship tracking systems, shows that traffic from major Russian ports has declined since the invasion, but has not. The number of container ships, tankers and bulk carriers – the three main types of ships carrying energy and consumer products – arriving and leaving Russian ports, fell by about 23 per cent in March and April from a year earlier.

“The reality is that the sanctions were not so difficult to maneuver,” said Georgios Hatsimanolis, who analyzed global shipping for MarineTraffic.

Tracking by Lloyd’s List Intelligence, a maritime information service, shows similar trends. The number of bulk carriers carrying bulk cargo such as grain, coal and fertilizers that sailed from Russian ports in the five weeks after the invasion fell by just 6 percent from the five-week period before the invasion, according to the service.

In the weeks since the invasion, Russian trade with China and Japan has been broadly stable, while the number of bulk carriers heading to South Korea, Egypt and Turkey has actually increased, their figures show.

“There’s still a lot of back and forth traffic,” said Sebastian Willin, head of risk and compliance at Lloyd’s List Intelligence. “We really haven’t seen a drop.”

These figures contrast somewhat with statements by world leaders, which underscore the crippling nature of sanctions. Finance Minister Janet L. Yellen said on Thursday that the Russian economy was “absolutely shaky”, citing estimates that it was facing a 10 percent contraction this year and double-digit inflation.

Earlier this week, Ms. Yellen said the Treasury Department was still considering extending its exemption from sanctions, which allowed US financial institutions and investors to continue processing payments on Russian bonds. Speaking during a Senate hearing, she said officials were actively working to determine the “consequences and spillovers” of allowing the license to expire on May 25, which is likely to lead to Russia’s first default on more than a century.

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