Sovcomflot has managed to keep most of its operated ships under the classification of an International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) member through a huge transfer to the Indian Register of Shipping (IRClass).

Most of the Sovcomflot international tanker fleet was declassed by IACS members DNV, Lloyd’s Register and ABS after it was named in international sanctions.

But, in a series of class transfers in April and May, verified through data available on the IACS website, most of those tankers have been shifted to IRClass.

TradeWinds has verified around 70 transfers of tonnage listed in industry databases as controlled by Sovcomflot to IRClass. The ships range from suezmax to handysize tankers and amount to more than 7m gt.

Two LNG carriers have also switched over to IRClass: the 145,580-cbm Grand Aniva (built 2008) and 175,000-cbm SCF La Perouse (built 2020).

The SCF La Perouse was recently floated as a sales candidate.

The transfer represents a massive injection of tonnage for the Mumbai-based classification society.

It is one of the smaller members of IACS, with 1,043 ships, amounting to 19.1m dwt, entered into its class in 2021, according to the most recent IACS data.

The ships that have transferred are registered in Liberia and Cyprus. Sovcomflot’s Russian-flag ships have remained under the classification of the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping.

Many of the ships have either been sold by Sovcomflot or are owned by a third-party entity and flagged outside Russia. It is unclear how many of them will remain with Sovcomflot under the ongoing sale of its fleet.

IRClass said it is not involved in the classification of Russian ships: “As we have previously publicly stated, Indian Register of Shipping, as an international ship classification society, reiterates that we have not classed vessels which are owned, flagged or managed by Russian companies.”

The transfer has thrown up a serious issue for IACS after its leading members withdrew class from Sovcomflot ships in response to sanctions and in the spirit of the international condemnation of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Expelled from IACS

The Russian Maritime Register was also expelled from IACS in response to the war.

Some IACS members are privately frustrated that the impact of their decision to withdraw classification from Sovcomflot ships could be negated.

Association members have to meet strict quality criteria, and certification by an IACS classification society is generally held in high regard.

The stamp of quality from IACS certification is in effect an essential ticket to trade for a ship.

IACS secretary general Robert Ashdown said it does not get involved with the commercial operations of its members.

“IACS is not involved in the operational and commercial activities of its members, including appraisal, approval surveying and testing of vessels and equipment and the issuing of classification and statutory certificates where authorised. As such, these developments do not get discussed within the association,” he said.

Russia has become India’s second-largest supplier of crude oil, according to figures quoted by news agency Reuters.

It reported that Indian refiners received about 819,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Russian oil in May, compared with about 277,000 bpd in April. Russia accounts for around 16.5% of Indian crude imports.