Unknown Indian company shipping millions of barrels of Russian oil
The origins and ownership of the business are a mystery, while its corporate records are scant
From the rundown Neptune Magnet Mall in Mumbai, a giant of international oil shipping has emerged over the past 18 months, seemingly from nowhere. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the company has bought more oil tankers than anyone else, elevating itself from an unknown Indian shipping business into one of the worlds largest vessel owners, a media report said.
Gatik Ship Management owned just two chemical tankers in 2021. By April, it had acquired a fleet of 58 vessels with an estimated combined value of $1.6 billion, The Financial Times report said citing shipping experts VesselsValue.
Yet the origins and ownership of the business are a mystery, while its corporate records are scant.
The group was registered as an exporter in India on March 31 this year but does not appear in India's official corporate registry, The Financial Times reported.
One important clue is that Gatik shares an address in the dreary shopping mall with Mumbai-registered company Buena Vista Shipping, another little-known operation that two years ago reported a little over $100,000 worth of assets.
Who really owns Buena Vista Shipping and who funded the rapid expansion of Gatik's fleet has perplexed the oil market. But shipbrokers, analysts and commodity traders suspect a link with its biggest client: the Russian oil giant Rosneft, Financial Times reported.
Gatik's newly acquired fleet has been used largely to transport oil from Russia, mainly to ports in India, tanker tracking data shows.
A Financial Times analysis of data from Kpler, an analytics company, shows the Indian group has shipped at least 83 million barrels of Russian crude and oil products -- enough to meet total UK oil demand for more than two months.
More than half of that has come from Rosneft. Total figures are believed to be even larger than those in Kpler's data set.
"It was inevitable after the west's sanctions that the Russian oil companies would want to get into shipping and I think Gatik is the ultimate example of this happening," said Viktor Katona, head of crude analysis at Kpler, the report said.
The EU has imposed a series of restrictions on Russian crude, most recently a price cap on oil handled by European companies; Rosneft's largest customers, Trafigura and Vitol, ditched their agreements with it last year.
Following the sanctions, New Delhi has opted to increase its imports of Russian oil, rather than itself imposing sanctions or observing a price cap imposed by the G7.
That is the context in which Gatik emerged.
VesselsValue, which tracks tanker sales, calculates that Gatik has acquired at least 56 vessels since March 2022, including 13 vessels in December alone when the EU's embargo on Russian oil began.
The purchases put Gatik among the largest tanker owners in the world, according to VesselsValue's Rebecca Galanopoulos.
"To put this into perspective, out of almost 14,000 live tankers, the majority of these companies -- 1,361 -- own fewer than 10 live tankers; only 20 companies, including Gatik, own 50 or more."
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