April 4, 2024

The case of LIGERA: Unveiling sanctioned Russian oil's global journey

This case study by Kpler analysts investigates the maritime maneuvers of the tanker LIGERA, which engaged in multiple ship-to-ship (STS) transfers of Russian Urals oil, notably with NAUTILUS and BLUE in Greece's Laconian Gulf.

These operations, meticulously documented by Kpler and MarineTraffic data, reveal a deliberate attempt to obfuscate the cargo's volume and origin, with LIGERA's draught data manipulation highlighting deceptive shipping practices. The vessel's journey to Venezuela, acting as floating storage and later transferring oil to MORNING SUN, underscores the complexities of international oil trade amidst sanctions and regulatory oversight.

The involvement of PDVSA and the broader geopolitical and economic implications, especially concerning flag hopping and the potential expiration of OFAC's General License 44, are central to understanding the strategic positioning of state and non-state actors in the global oil market.

Read on to see more information about this case, and to access the full study with supporting data from Kpler and MarineTraffic.

The Case of LIGERA

On the 9th January 2024, one of MarineTraffic's ship spotters took a photo of LIGERA (IMO 9237072) just off the coast of Crete at 09:28 UTC. She was ballast at 11.3m draught.

LIGERA ship spotting

She then headed to the Laconian Gulf in Greece on the 10th of January 2024.

LIGERA Laconian Gulf

On the 10 January 2024 at approximately 12:00 UTC, LIGERA begins her first ship-to-ship (STS) transfer, accepting Russian Urals oil from NAUTILUS (IMO 9434890) in the Laconian Gulf in Greece.


NAUTILUS was laden with 729k bbl of Urals from the port of Ust-Luga, according to Kpler data.

On the 28 January 2024 at approximately 16:00 UTC, LIGERA begins her second ship-to-ship (STS) transfer, accepting Urals from BLUE (IMO 9236353) in the Laconian Gulf in Greece.


BLUE was laden with 1m bbl of Urals from the port of Novorossiysk, according to Kpler data.

LIGERA’s declared draught from the captain changed from 11.3m to 19.3m between the 10th and the 30th of January, confirming the loading of cargo from the 2 STS events.

The captain subsequently obfuscated this information and reverted to a ballast draught value of 11.5m on the 2nd February as the LIGERA was travelling through the mediterranean sea. Falsifying a draught value is a well known type of deceptive shipping practice.

LIGERA continued on to Venezuela and was acting as floating storage laden with 1.8m bbl of Russian Urals until MarineTraffic detected an STS event with the MORNING SUN (IMO 9110183) that lasted for over 55 hours, between the 28th February 2024 - 1st March 2024. The STS operation was assisted by a pilot boat, ESPERANZA IV, and a tug boat, DALIA.

View a video of the STS operation using MarineTraffic's playback feature here.


The MORNING SUN called at the Cardon Refinery in Venezuela on the 2nd March offloading 600k bbl of Russian Urals, according to Kpler data. Cardon Refinery belongs to the state-owned company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA).

LIGERA is still laden with 1.1m bbl of Russian Urals anchored approximately 25 nautical miles from Puerto Jose in Venezuela, home to an important oil tanker loading complex, the Complejo criogénico de Oriente José, controlled by Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA).

Since the 18th of October 2023, Venezuelan oil export sanctions have been lifted through OFAC's General License (GL) 44. This temporary authorisation is set to expire however.

GL 44 authorizes transactions through 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time, April 18, 2024. The U.S. government intends to renew GL 44 only if the representatives of Maduro follow through with their commitments and take continued concrete steps toward a democratic election by the end of 2024.

Is the trade of Russian Ural crude into Venezuela a tactical move to mask oil origins and exploit export loopholes for Western market entry? What fate awaits the 1.1 million barrels of Urals aboard LIGERA? Our analysts are closely monitoring the situation for updates.

If you'd like to see the full study, access it here.

Did you know?

All of the data and insight from this article came from the Kpler and MarineTraffic platforms. Enabling maritime professionals, commodity traders, producers and investors to reduce risk and maximise returns, to make better decisions, faster with real-time, unbiased expert research, AI driven analytics, and precise forecasting.

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