A new report detailing risk insights in the maritime industry has found a notable increase in “dark” activities relating to Russia and the Baltic Sea during the third quarter of 2023. 

The Risk Report created by maritime AI company Windward details the current risks at sea and deceptive shipping activities that are taking place, including those related to sanctioned ships. 

Analysis by the company found a 27% increase in dark activities by tanker vessels after visiting a port in Russia and a major 550% increase in dark activities in the Baltic Sea. 

A dark ship is a vessel that has turned off its Automatic Identification System meaning, while it should be visible to other ships on radar, it is not likely to be visible to other satellites and public monitoring systems. 

Though there has also been a rise in the number of dark ships around the world, up 8% in Q3, the increase in dark activity in the Baltic area appears to far exceed any other areas. 

Russia also ranked as the top destination country for the global dark fleet, with over 1,000 port calls, though Singapore also saw a 33% increase in port calls by dark fleet vessels in the period. 

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High numbers of dark activity in Russia are perhaps unsurprising when compared to the number of sanctioned vessels with 46% of all sanctioned cargo vessels being Russian affiliated. 

Additionally, 83% of medium risk and 47% of high-risk tankers were associated with the country while 81% of medium risk and 36% of high-risk cargo vessels had Russian affiliation. 

As well as focussing on activity in Russian waters and with Russian ships, Windward’s report also highlights the limited number, 7.2%, of vessels associated with “sanctioned regimes” that have been officially sanctioned. 

While thousands of vessels related to countries like Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Syria have been designated as high or medium risk, only 497 have been sanctioned. 

The issues and risk related to dark and sanctioned ships has lead many companies to increase their engagement with the issue by contracting the services of data companies to track the activity in the areas they operate. 

For example, data analytics company SynMax recently bought energy trade flow analytics company Gas Vista in an effort to strengthen its dark ships intelligence platforms.