Denmark could start inspecting and potentially blocking the transit of Russian oil tankers through its territorial waters, the Financial Times (FT) reported on Nov. 15, citing unnamed sources.
Denmark would possibly target Russian oil tankers operating without Western insurance, which some have opted to do since the U.S. and its allies imposed a $60 per barrel price cap on Russian oil exports.
Although sources told the FT on Nov. 14 that the price cap was almost completely ineffective, with Russian oil consistently trading at more than $20 above it, Western companies have also refused to provide insurance to ships that fail to comply with the price cap.
Denmark could use existing international laws allowing states to check cargo ships for suspected environmental violations. Sources said the EU is concerned that non-Western insurance, and especially the falsified insurance that some ships have been found to carry, would not cover oil spills.
As a result, Denmark may have cause to stop and inspect Russian oil tankers and potentially prevent them from continuing their journey.
According to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which governs maritime traffic, a state may “institute proceedings, including detention of the vessel,” given “clear objective evidence” that there is a potential threat to the environment.
However, sources said that the plan would depend on the "capacity of Denmark’s naval authorities to stop and check the tankers, and raises the question of what Copenhagen would do if a ship refused to stop."
A spokesman for the Danish Defense Command told the FT, “In short, we don’t check paperwork or ships passing or sailing through the straits, unless it has to do with safety at sea.”
Blocking the Danish straits, or even reducing access for Russian oil tankers, would likely be a significant blow to Russia's export capacity.
"All of Russia’s oil shipped through the Baltic Sea, roughly 60 per cent of its total seaborne oil exports, crosses the narrow Danish straits on its way to international markets," the FT wrote.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) reported on Nov. 14 that revenue from Russian oil exports fell by almost 2.5% in October from the previous month, in part due to sanctions and other related effects of the price cap.
However, Russia's oil revenue in October was still almost $5.75 billion higher than in January 2023, shortly after the price cap was introduced in December 2022.
The European Parliament noted that, as of August, the EU was still sending Russia 2 billion euros ($2.16 billion) per month for fossil fuels.