By Hakan @Adobe Stock

Costas Paris and Joe Wallace of The Wall Street Journal report that Gabon’s ship registry has ballooned to more than 100 vessels, industry participants estimate. They write:

An armada of old tanker ships has sprung up to move sanctioned Russian and Iranian oil, putting sailors in peril and threatening environmental catastrophes.

At the center of this trade is a surprising new player in global shipping: Gabon, a nation better known for its dense rainforest and a recent coup than maritime acumen.

The Gabonese ship registry has ballooned to hold more than 100 tankers, according to ship brokers and owners, and an official at an established rival registry. Lloyd’s List Intelligence estimates more than 70 of those vessels have obscure ownership and form part of a shadow fleet of tankers dedicated to sanctioned oil trades. […]

“They pay a third in front when you get on the ship and the rest when the trip is complete. It’s all in cash and it’s twice what you get on other ships,” said Bello.

Aarvi Herath, a 19-year-old from Colombo, joined a Comoros-flagged ship bound for China as a deckhand when it refueled in Sri Lanka in January. He said the journey was “a nightmare,” though he earned more a day than he would in a month on land.

The tanker was 22 years old, Herath said—well past the point at which tankers used to go to scrap. “There were big waves, a lot of wind and the ship made noises like it would break up. I threw up all the time,” Herath said.

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