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Deepening Turkey tanker logjam snarls Russia oil sanctions


(Reuters) — Turkey emerged as a critical stumbling block to a complex international plan to deprive Russia of wartime oil revenue as the number of tankers waiting to exit the Black Sea through Turkish straits continued to rise Friday.

Ankara has declined to scrap a new insurance inspection rule it implemented at the beginning of the month despite days of pressure from Western officials frustrated by the policy.

A total of 28 oil tankers are in a queue seeking to leave the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits, the Tribeca shipping agency said Friday.

G7 wealthy countries, the European Union and Australia agreed to bar providers of shipping services, such as insurers, from helping export Russian oil unless it is sold at an enforced low price, or cap, aimed at depriving Moscow of wartime revenue.

Turkey's maritime authority said it would continue to keep out of its waters oil tankers that lack appropriate insurance letters.

Western insurers said they cannot provide the documents required by Turkey as it may expose them to sanctions if it emerged that the oil cargoes they cover were sold at prices that exceed the cap.

The Turkish authority said that in the event of an accident involving a vessel in breach of sanctions it was possible the damage would not be covered by an international oil-spill fund.

“(It) is out of the question for us to take the risk that the insurance company will not meet its indemnification responsibility,” it said, adding that Turkey was continuing talks with other countries and insurance companies.

It added the vast majority of vessels waiting near the straits were EU vessels, with a large part of the oil destined for EU ports - a factor frustrating Ankara's Western allies.

The ship backlog is creating growing unease in oil and tanker markets. Millions of barrels of oil per day move south from Russian ports through Turkey's Bosporus and Dardanelles straits into the Mediterranean.