More than 50 crude tankers are “highly likely” to shift into Russian trades once the European Union’s embargo kicks in next month.

Vortexa’s head of strategic partnership Arthur Richier said his company flagged 56 ships currently carrying Iranian crude oil that would be easily enticed into carrying Russian crude just over three weeks from now and tapped another 46 ships as simply likely to do so.

“That’s 100 tankers that could join these 40 tankers [already in Russian trades] to move these Russian barrels,” he said at Marine Money’s Ship Finance Forum in New York on Thursday.

Vortexa analysed the fleet currently carrying Iranian crude contra US sanctions and categorised them based on their probability to switch.

Most were judged to have a 50% or greater chance of switching.

“Overall, the reality is that all 178 of those tankers could be candidates,” Richier said.

Starting on 5 December, the EU will ban seaborne imports of Russian oil and intend to further limit Moscow’s energy industry by setting and enforcing an oil price cap together with the US and other developed economies.

If Russia refuses to accede to the cap, it will turn to the so-called dark fleet, the group of largely older tankers operated by shadowy owners to move Iranian and Venezuelan cargoes.

There is much speculation about how many ships will be necessary and how many will shift to moving Russian cargoes. It is widely speculated that the litany of sale-and-purchase transactions for older tankers in the face of sky-high asset prices is growing that number.

At the event, Richier said whatever the number, Russia will still fall short, with logistical issues taking 2m barrels per day out of the market.

“Whether the oil price cap is agreed or not, it simply is going to be a logistical issue Russia will face to move those barrels,” he said. “There will not be enough tankers coming in from sanctioned trades that can do this.”

Delta Tankers’ aframax tanker Delta Pioneer was targeted by Greenpeace activists. The 111,000-dwt tanker was anchored off the Danish port of Skagen after carrying a load of crude from Primorsk. Photo: Will Rose/Greenpeace