Updated 9.50am with Global Witness statement

Malta is one of three European Union countries whose ships have increased transportation of Russian oil since the invasion of Ukraine, according to data compiled by an anti-corruption group. 

An analysis by NGO Global Witness shows that cargo ships flying the Maltese, Greek and Cypriot flags have all increased the volume of Russia-linked crude oil they transport in the last year.

The report comes after the three countries successfully lobbied to block Brussels’ proposal to ban the transportation of Russian oil on EU-flagged or controlled ships.

The ban was part of a round of sanctions drawn up by the European Commission to target Russia’s ability to sustain its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

It was also meant to wean the bloc off Russian energy supplies.

Malta, along with Greece and Cyprus, however, successfully argued that the move would hurt maritime shipping countries more than it would Russia. 

Russian oil shipments double

The NGO found that, on average, Maltese-flagged ships, as did those flying Greek and Cypriot flags, started carrying around 50 per cent more Russian fuel over the course of a year, gradually increasing every month.  

It did not provide a country-by-country breakdown of the increase. However, the data showed there were 81 transfers of Russian fuel between February 2022 - the month that Russia invaded Ukraine - and May.

Malta has the EU’s largest registry of ships, however, not a single one of those involved in moving Russian oil was listed as being owned or even managed by Maltese interests in the NGO’s report. 

Global Witness says that, just before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, ships flying the flags of these three countries transported some 30 million barrels of Russian oil.

A few months later, in May, the same ships were moving 58 million barrels.

"Instead of solidarity with Ukraine, the Maltese government is helping wealthy shipowners make a quick buck."

In total, ships linked to Greece, Malta and Cyprus have transported 178 million barrels since February. At current prices that has a value of  €16.10 billion.  

Louis Goddard, the senior data investigations adviser at Global Witness, said that ships linked to Greece, Cyprus and Malta are “making a mockery” of the European Union’s effort to sanction Russia.

Sam Leon, head of data investigations at the NGO, was similarly scathing. 

"Instead of solidarity with Ukraine, the Maltese government is helping wealthy shipowners make a quick buck. Helping Russia export its oil around the world benefits no one but Putin, unscrupulous fossil fuel companies and large shipping firms," he said. "It’s time the Maltese government banned the vessels flying its flag from carrying Russian oil."

A ban on the transportation of Russian oil could have a large impact on the shipping industry as it is a major part of the sector’s activity.

Malta has argued that the shipping ban would only make sense if the EU’s international partners, at least those in the G7, were willing to do the same.

The Group of Seven consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States. These allies have not come to a similar agreement on Russia oil.

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