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PRESS RELEASE – Gibraltar and Ship-to-Ship Transfers

February 10, 2023

The Gibraltar Port Authority (GPA) would like clarify the legal situation surrounding ship-to-ship transfers (STS) of crude oil and other oil products in the area of the Strait of Gibraltar following misleading reports in Spanish media.

Since January 2013 Gibraltar forbids its port operators and service providers from directly or indirectly effecting or providing services for ship-to-ship transfers of any kind outside British Gibraltar Territorial Waters. It further prohibits the exportation of fenders and associated equipment from Gibraltar in support of operations outside BGTW without express permission of the Captain of the Port and the Minister with responsibility for the Port, which is only granted in exceptional circumstances where both the Captain of the Port and the Minister are satisfied that this equipment will not be used for STS operations.

This rule effectively means that Gibraltar-based operators cannot supply the fenders necessary for STS operations taking place in international waters.

Since 2 March 2022, Gibraltar Port does not admit the access or servicing of any vessel

  • Owned, controlled, charted or operated by any person connected with Russia;
  • Owned, controlled, charted or operated by Designated Persons;
  • Flying the Russian flag; • Registered in Russia; or
  • Carrying any load or cargo which is in the ownership of or destined to be delivered to any persons connected with Russia or Designated Persons.

Additionally, the GPA is not providing any type of service to vessels of any flag proceeding from Russian ports or stating a Russian port as the next destination.

This ruling follows the sanctions on Russia imposed by the Government of Gibraltar in line with UK policy and in fact goes well beyond UK and EU sanctions in this regard. Today Russian owned or connected vessels are still able to access ports of the EU or UK. Morocco, on the other hand, has no sanctions in place against Russia.

Spanish media reported that two tankers flagged in third countries had bunkered in Gibraltar before effecting STS operations in international waters off Ceuta, affirming that Russia was “evading European sanctions with ships in Gibraltar”. The ships cited by the media were in fact empty tankers, flagged in third countries, not arriving from Russia, with no indication of any Russian interest involved, which took on fuel in Gibraltar and then proceeded to international waters off Ceuta. According to applicable protocols there was no reason to refuse them service.

The port of Gibraltar is already applying stricter rules than any EU or UK port against Russian connected vessels and following and going beyond UK and EU sanctions, as well as forbidding the facilitation of STS operations outside Gibraltar waters. There are no grounds therefore to accuse Gibraltar of “conniving” with Russian interests, as some Spanish media have, when in fact Spanish and Moroccan ports can and do provide services to Russian shipping because different legal measures are applied.