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Toxic Tonnage: How the Dark Fleet puts us at environmental & economic risk

In April 2024, the Dali, a Singapore-flagged vessel, crashed into Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key bridge. Six lives were lost, and the mishap will likely cost billions of dollars in reconstruction, salvage, and insurance claims. However, the Dali was insured, chartered, crewed, classed, and flagged by reputable companies. As horrendous as the crash was, Baltimore will have the money to rebuild, and all parties can be held to their obligations.
Meanwhile, across the world, a group of about 850 tankers acquired to evade Russian, Iranian, and Venezuelan sanctions, serve as a ticking time bomb for an equally disastrous crisis, but which will most likely not be covered by insurance and where the threat actors involved are not held accountable. Meanwhile, these tankers are engaging in increasingly unsafe practices such as spoofing their location within harbors, which will eventually lead to a catastrophe.

The entire maritime and financial community is at risk of not just violating sanctions, but being held liable for any environmental or other damages caused by these vessels. We believe that when the aforementioned parties can't cover a mishap or flee to jurisdictions where they are safe from judgement, the victims will seek reparations from the other parties involved, including any flags, classification societies, or the buyers, sellers, and financiers of the cargo.

In this report, we dive into the shady network of flags, classification societies, and insurance companies who appear to primarily or exclusively service vessels engaged in sanctions evasion or other high risk behavior. The vessel owners know they aren't getting real insurance or safety certificates, but are instead using these services to gain the veneer of legitimacy so they can deliver their cargo to ports. We also explain how Pole Star, Blackstone, and Deep Blue are combating this threat, and lay out a plan for how the entire maritime community can work together to mitigate this risk. 

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