Dockworkers at several facilities in the UK are refusing to handle Russian oil and LNG, prompting multiple ships to divert or wait at berth. The disruption is part of a growing public backlash against Russian energy cargoes, in the wake of the Kremlin’s decision to invade Ukraine. There is widespread recognition that these cargoes are a potential means of exerting pressure on Russia. Also taken together, oil, gas and coal represent about two-thirds of Russia’s export economy.
At the Birkenhead Docks near Manchester, the German-owned and -flagged tanker SeaCod encountered an unexpected challenge. The terminal workers refused to help offload her cargo of Russian crude oil.
The SeaCod loaded a cargo of petroleum at the Primorsk terminal outside of St. Petersburg on February 22. She arrived at Manchester on March 2. During the middle of her voyage, Russia invaded Ukraine, prompting massive Western sanctions measures and widespread public condemnation.
Several dockers’ unions have expressed an unwillingness to handle Russian cargoes due to the ongoing invasion. Additionally, the longshore crew at the Birkenhead Docks shared this view. Furthermore, the cargoes are not technically banned in the UK – only Russian ships. Yet, the crew refused to unload SeaCod’s oil. SeaCod returned to sea on March 6, broadcasting “for orders.” It is not known how much (if any) of her cargo she offloaded before departure. However, her AIS broadcast draft was 24 feet – far less than her fully laden draft of 36 feet.
Essar Group, the buyer of the cargo, said in a statement that it has been working to find non-Russian alternatives. It noted that it has recently turned away two cargoes of non-Russian crude carried by Russian-flagged tankers. In addition, that the SeaCod was cleared to arrive by the local port authority.