- Marko Pomerants believes that his actions are all right.
- A Gazprom tanker is shuttling to Russia and back like a tram.
- Officials say everything is legally OK.
Companies transporting petroleum products, including a firm owned by Russia’s Gazprom Neft, want extra anchorages from the Estonian state for servicing tankers; former minister for environment Marko Pomerants (Isamaa) of the Powerhouse PR firm is lobbying for the fuel traders.
“I am acting in the interests of various Estonian bunkering firms (suppliers of ships with fuel or lubricants),” Marko Pomerants informed the ministries of the environment and economic affairs as early as on October 6 last year when he helped four enterprises draft an appeal for gaining additional anchorages and for streamlining the paperwork.
“I still represent them,” Pomerants told Postimees. He admitted being aware that the leading bunkering form of oil products AS Baltic Marine Bunker is owned by Gazprom Neft. Does the ex-minister consider it correct to protect the interests of a Russian state-owned company against the Estonian government? “I consider it correct to protect the interests of Estonia as a maritime nation,” Marko Pomerants answered. “Enterprises which can operate bin Estonia should be able to share the opportunities of a maritime nation.”
He emphasized that the desired change would be in the interests of all companies, not just Gazprom Neft. “The Estonian state should decide whether the companies of an owner are banned or not,” Pomerants said.
The Bunkering firms are not happy that, following the scandal surrounding the pumping of huge quantities of oil (STS operation) in a Natura 2000 nature reserve (Pakri D-anchorage), the government banned the transfer of even small amounts oil in 13 anchorages for the ships’ own use. It is allowed in six anchoring areas.
Andres Lukin, a representative of AS Baltic Marine Bunker, explained to Postimees that in reality it is currently possible to bunker in only one area – the others are not suitable due to wind conditions or require a pilot service, which consumes time and money.
Russian oil products are being refueled so massively in the G-anchorage of Tallinn between Rannamõisa and Naissaar Island that the lack of space has resulted in increased risk of collision. In the anchorage area, there are often three to nine tankers taking on fuel so that it can be heard all the way to the coast.
A Gazprom tanker is shuttling back and forth to Russia
The Estonian-flagged tanker EAST, operated by Baltic Marine Bunker, is especially active in transferring oil.
“She left St. Petersburg at 11.30 yesterday and was today at 11 o’clock already in the Tallinn Old Port,” described the fisherman Kalle (Postimees withholds his surname – ed.) on Friday. Kalle has a hobby of monitoring the movement of ships via the marinetraffic.com portal. “She refuels our ships, even passenger vessels. I did not notice that frequent traffic before but she has been steaming back and forth like a tram, quite regularly. It seems she pumps out the cargo and immediately returns to St. Petersburg.”
Fuel is transferred in the anchorage rather than in port because ships entering the port would have to pay for the use of the waterways.
The Russians’ golden business
According to teatmik.ee, the average salary of eight employees of Baltic Marine Bunker is over 8,300 euros per month (gross). The turnover in the first quarter of this year was 9.5 million euros. According to the annual report for 2020, the company’s sales revenue was 46.8 million euros, profit nearly 869,000 euros, retained earnings over two million euros.
The shares of Baltic Marine Bunker belong to the Russian state-owned company Gazprom Neft (the shares are deposited in the nominee account of Raiffeisen Bank International AG in Switzerland).
According to the Estonian Commercial Register, the members of the company’s supervisory board are related to Gazprom Neft. The entry “real beneficiaries” are Maksim Reshetnikov (born on July 11, 1979) and Vadim Yakovenko (January 2, 1970). Reshetnikov is Russia’s minister of trade development, who is personally sanctioned by the European Union because of his involvement in the war in Ukraine. Yakovenko is the head of Russia’s Federal Office for State Property Administration.
Everything is OK according to officials
The Council of Europe banned as of March 15 participation in transactions with Gazprom Neft and any legal entity acting on behalf of or under the direction of Gazprom Neft.
On March 28, Äripäev reported that according to the FIU, the restrictions imposed on Gazprom Neft should also be applied to Baltic Marine Bunker.
However, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the ban does not apply to transactions strictly necessary for the direct or indirect purchase, import or transport of natural gas and oil (including refined petroleum products) and titanium, aluminum, copper, nickel, palladium and iron ore from or through Russia to the European Union, the European Economic Area, Switzerland or the Western Balkans.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications confirmed that a company owned by Gazprom Neft could do business under this exemption.
The officials are not disturbed by the fact that Baltic Marine Bunker fills the fuel tanks of tankers arriving from any country and under any flag.
“There are emotional approaches, but there are also laws, and we operate according to laws,” said Andres Lukin when asked why ships of Russian companies flying the flag of another country should be able to do business in Estonian waters at all. “If the ban on entering the port was imposed on the flag and not on the owners, how can a port ignore a ship flying the Liberian flag, for example?”
Additional anchorages would be in the interests of nature
Lukin argued that allowing bunkering in more anchorage areas would primarily serve nature protection considerations rather than commercial interests. Operating in a cramped space increases the risk of accidents.
“The implementation of the regulation has brought along the deterioration of the availability of bunkering services and a lack of space due to the congestion of some anchorages (for example, the Muuga K and Tallinn G areas), which results in actual risk of shipping accidents. This is confirmed by the statistics of hazardous proximity of ships and the constant need of the maritime traffic control center to relocate ships in the anchorage areas due to lack of space,” Marko Pomerants said in a letter to state officials.
The companies want that bunkering would be allowed in the H1 and H2 anchorages of Tallinn, Muuga I anchorage area, in addition to the Pakri D anchorage area (the former paradise for STS operations), which extends into the Natura 2000 area, and the forming of a completely new anchorage area near Sillamäe harbor.
In addition, they want to be exempted from the obligation to notify of bunkering 72 hours in advance, except for in the Pakri anchorage area, where the bunkering firms would agree to both notification and coordination with the Environmental Board.
The enterprises requesting the relaxing of regulations regarding STS operations with Russian vessels
- AS Baltic Marine Bunker – owner Gazprom Neft (majority shareholder)
- AS NT Bunkering – owner OÜ Baltic Sea Bunkering (owners: Yelena Skvortsova (Russia), Sergey Pasters (Malta))
- Marine Energy Solutions OÜ – owner Skorp-Shipping OÜ (owners Metro Broker OÜ (owners Anatoly Belov, Alexandr Golubev, Vladimir Koginov) and NW Holding OÜ (owner Yelena Bobkova, Cyprus))
- Starbunker OÜ – owners Aleksei Vais, Yuri Vasilyev, Maksim Krivoshein
Sources: Commercial Register, Gazprom Neft, Raiffeisen Bank International AG.