The UK government has ratcheted up pressure on the United Arab Emirates over its role in facilitating the Russian oil trade via companies based in the Emirates.

An updated UK sanctions list released on 6 December names four shipping companies on it, including Oil Tankers (SCF) Management — a Sovcomflot-linked unit.

The other three are K&O Shipmanagement, Radiating World Shipping Services and Star Voyages Shipping — all entities known to have purchased tankers on the secondhand market since Russia invaded Ukraine.

The four companies are among a wider list of 46 firms and individuals in six different countries, which the UK accuses of continuing “to support Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine,” according to the UK government’s statement.

According to the same statement, the four shipping companies are “operators of so-called ‘shadow fleet’ vessels used by Russia to soften the blow of oil-related sanctions imposed by the UK alongside G7 partners”.

The companies are said to be “using opaque corporate structures and deceptive shipping practices to facilitate unfettered trade in Russian oil, bearing down on Russia’s efforts to generate war revenues”.

The UK government announced the steps on the day Russian President Vladimir Putin travelled to the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Unlike similar US measures, which have so far been imposed on one-ship companies, the UK sanctions seem to be targeting the four ship operators as a whole.

London is a hub for maritime insurance and financial services.