Concerns grow that India is ‘back door’ into Europe for Russian oil

The huge blue and red hull of the SCF Primorye came into port at Vadinar, western Gujarat, India, earlier this month. The 84,000-tonne oil tanker, built in 2009 and sailing under the Liberian flag, had arrived from the port at Ust-Luga, a settlement in Russia near the border with Estonia.

Until 2017, the Vadinar oil refinery was controlled by Essar – the Indian owner of the Stanlow refinery in Ellesmere Port. Since then a consortium including the sanctioned Russian state-owned oil firm Rosneft and the commodities trader Trafigura, which holds a 24.5% stake, have owned Nayara Energy, which runs the refinery.

The tanker’s arrival came as India ramped up imports of Russian oil. The Asian nation’s willingness to snap up Russian crude at discounts of up to 30% has undermined efforts from the US, Europe and the UK to deplete Vladimir Putin’s war coffers by curtailing imports. Russia raked in $20bn from oil exports in May, bouncing back to pre-invasion levels. Now, concerns are growing that India is being used as a potential back door into Europe for Russian oil supplies,given the surge in imports.

Before the invasion of Ukraine, India’s imports of Russian oil were negligible due to high freight costs. But recently, imports of Russian oil to India have increased. Vadinar’s owner, Nayara, purchased Russian oil in March – just before international restrictions on its exports were introduced – after a gap of a year, buying about 1.8m barrels from Trafigura, Reuters reported.