In the News

Christopher Swift Offers Insight on the Rise of Illicit Oil Shipping Activity

Foley & Lardner LLP partner Christopher Swift is quoted in the CNBC article, “‘Dark’ ships are faking their locations to move oil around the world — and it’s likely worth billions of dollars,” discussing the rising number of shipping vessels falsifying their locations, likely to disguise the origin of the oil they are carrying in an effort to evade sanctions.

Large ships are fitted with automatic identification systems (AIS), per International Maritime Organization requirements, however, “dark vessels” are switching off their location transponders or engaging in AIS spoofing to misreport their location. Swift called AIS spoofing “highly suspect,” adding that, “If you’re in the insurance industry, and you’re not paying attention to this, you really need to start paying attention.”

Swift said he expects the U.S. government to investigate further but noted that enforcement “tends to lag behind the newest sanctions [and] circumvention strategies.”

“Recent DOJ criminal cases and civil forfeiture actions involving shipping companies carrying illicit Iranian oil shows how the U.S. Government might react to AIS spoofing and Russian oil smuggling in the future,” Swift added.