A Ukrainian oil tanker loaded with 1,600 tons of illegal and undocumented diesel fuel has been detained in the Black Sea by a border guard unit of Russia’s Federal Security Service, according to a report by the pro-Russian news agency Tass. The ship was intercepted and taken to the port of Kerch on the eastern side of Crimea after having been accused of entering Russian territorial waters and transferring illegal fuel to other ships.
The ship has been in the Black Sea without calling at ports since 2012, according to authorities, and was found to have breached Russian borders when it entered sovereign waters around Crimea more than seven times since Russia annexed the peninsula from Ukraine in March last year.
"The inspection has showed [sic] the tanker has no captain. The crew consisting of 10 members lacked the entire service documentation and the automated identification system," the Crimean border guard department said. "This means the ship was actually a ghost invisible for state controlling bodies.”
— Onlinemagazin (@OnlineMagazin) July 23, 2015
According to Maritime Traffic, a real-time ship tracking system, the vessel, known as the Smolny, did not currently appear in the port of Kerch. That news indicated that its automated ID system had been switched off or did not exist. According to Maritime Traffic’s ship records, sea crafts with the name Smolny either have been renamed or have sunk. The only ship with that name in current use was a pollution-control vessel that last went to Kerch in June 2012.
Authorities have launched an investigation into exactly what the ship was doing, but it was suspected to be selling illegal fuel obtained from an unsanctioned seller, such as the Islamic State group, for example. The ship’s owner, which was noted as Uvas-Trans LLC, could face a fine of up to $50,000 for violating border laws.
Relations between Ukraine and Russia have deteriorated over the last 16 months since Moscow took Crimea and has fueled the fighting in the east Ukraine war since April 2014.