EU Strategizes to Monitor and Block Russian Oil Tankers in Danish Waters

Captured from above, the Sunny Liger, a tanker flying the Marshall Islands flag and carrying a shipment of Russian diesel, is anchored in the North Sea near IJmuiden on April 30, 2022.
Captured from above, the Sunny Liger, a tanker flying the Marshall Islands flag and carrying a shipment of Russian diesel, is anchored in the North Sea near IJmuiden on April 30, 2022. (Photo by Paul Martens / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT

The European Union (EU) is reportedly entrusting Denmark with the responsibility of inspecting and, if necessary, blocking Russian oil tankers from traversing its territorial waters. This strategic initiative aims to curb Russia’s ability to circumvent the G7-imposed price cap on oil, which has been a crucial source of income for its invasion of Ukraine.

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Amidst geopolitical tensions and economic repercussions, the European Union (EU) has unveiled a strategic plan to curtail Russia’s maneuvering around the G7-imposed price cap on oil. Since December 2022, when the cap was initiated, Moscow has found ways to sidestep its effects, using oil revenues as a significant financial resource for its military actions, particularly the invasion of Ukraine. In response, the EU aims to employ more effective measures, with Denmark positioned at the forefront of inspecting and potentially blocking Russian oil tankers in its territorial waters.

Under this comprehensive plan, Denmark is slated to play a pivotal role in inspecting tankers transiting the Danish straits, which constitute approximately 60% of Russia’s total seaborne oil exports. The focus will be on checking for Western insurance, a crucial component for compliance with the G7 price caps. The crux of the matter lies in Russia’s use of falsified documents, enabling its shadow fleet of tankers to bypass the imposed price restrictions. As Western insurance companies refrain from providing coverage to non-compliant ships, the EU sees an opportunity to enforce inspections on Russian tankers.

The legality of these actions is grounded in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which permits states to inspect and take proceedings against vessels posing a major environmental threat. Beyond the pursuit of enforcing the price cap, the EU contends that the demand for proper insurance is justified due to the potential environmental hazards associated with older Russian vessels. These ships, often used for oil shipments, pose a higher risk of breakdowns and spillages, which could lead to significant environmental disasters.

While the proposal hinges on the capacity of Danish naval authorities to stop and inspect tankers, the looming question remains: what if a ship refuses to comply? The EU’s strategy, as suggested by analysts, centers on complicating the process of trading Russian oil, anticipating that increased bureaucracy and risks will prompt buyers to demand larger discounts for their engagement.

Bureaucratic Complications for Russia

Experts, including Henning Gloystein of the Eurasia Group consulting firm, posit that the EU’s objective is to make the bureaucracy and risks associated with trading Russian oil more onerous. By doing so, the expectation is that buyers will start demanding larger discounts, potentially disrupting Russia’s oil trade dynamics.

The volume of Russian oil transiting Danish waters daily is staggering, equivalent to about 2 million barrels of crude or three Aframax vessels, which are commonly used for Russian exports. The Danish government has maintained silence on the matter, while the European Commission, under President Ursula von der Leyen, has expressed a commitment to adopt further actions to tighten the oil price cap.

EU’s 12th Package of Sanctions

As part of its ongoing efforts, the EU is considering additional restrictions in its 12th package of sanctions. Discussions among member states include measures against shipping companies selling old ships to Russia’s “shadow fleet” and sanctions against countries facilitating these ships sailing under their national flags.

Russia’s Response

In response to these developments, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that there is no official confirmation from the EU about the potential move. However, if Denmark proceeds with inspections, questions arise about the Russian navy’s potential role in escorting tankers passing through the Baltic Sea. Peskov emphasized the importance of adhering to international shipping rules.


  1. What is the EU’s plan regarding Russian oil tankers?
    The EU is looking to task Denmark with inspecting and blocking Russian oil tankers in its territorial waters to enforce the G7 price cap.
  2. How does Russia bypass the G7 price cap?
    Russia’s shadow fleet falsifies documents, allowing tankers to avoid Western insurance requirements imposed by the G7.
  3. What legal basis justifies inspecting vessels in Danish waters?
    According to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, states can inspect vessels if there is “clear objective evidence” of a major environmental threat.


The EU’s proactive stance in monitoring and potentially blocking Russian oil shipments signifies a robust effort to enforce international agreements and address environmental concerns. As discussions unfold, the impact on Russia’s oil revenues and the broader geopolitical landscape remains uncertain. The world watches closely as these developments unfold, anticipating shifts in the dynamics of the oil trade and potential geopolitical ramifications.


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