Caspian Pipeline Consortium has warned of reduced shipping speeds at its export terminal near the Russian port of Novorossiysk on the Black Sea for the next few days.

The company, which operates an oil export pipeline running from Kazakhstan to a Russian export terminal, said two out of its three marine tanker loading buoys will be idled between 15 and 25 June while representatives of the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry conduct surveys of the seabed around them.

Earlier preliminary surveys ordered by the operator, revealed that “hydroacoustic and magnetic targets have been identified that require additional examination and disposal”, Caspian Pipeline said in a statement.

The statement said, apparently referring to World War II, that “in the past, coastal sea areas [where the export terminal operates] have repeatedly been a war zone”.

Russian regulations require the elimination of “residual mine danger” before the start of operations that touch the seabed, it added.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has significantly increased risks of navigation in the Black Sea, as both sides are understood to be laying sea mines.

At the end of May, Upstream’s sister publication TradeWinds reported that the International Maritime Organisation warned shipowners that mines in the Black Sea are putting seafarers’ life at risk.

The shipping regulator’s London-based secretariat said it continues to receive reports of mine sightings in the Black Sea off the coast of Turkey and Romania.

Expansion, repair, maintenance

Caspian Pipeline also said that it needs to conduct offshore preparation work under its plans to expand throughput capacity and to conduct necessary repairs and maintenance to the subsea infrastructure of the loading buoys.

These include replacement of subsea manifolds, installation of caisson anchors and the installation and laying of chains.

The operator also needs to prepare for the removal of two loading buoys, as their service periods have expired.

Last year, Caspian Pipeline said that the first buoy will be replaced by a new unit in 2023, and the second one in 2024.

However, a company spokesperson has been unable to confirm the replacement schedule when contacted by Upstream this week.

Earlier, Caspian Pipeline acknowledged the refusal from international contractors to deliver replacement parts for the loading buoys following the introduction of US and European sanctions against Russia in response to the war in Ukraine.

The spokesperson could not confirm whether orders to manufacture replacement buoys had already been placed, or tenders initiated.

The marine offloading buoys are manufactured to international standards set by the pipeline-operating consortium led by US supermajor Chevron.

Russia-based contractors are understood to lack the necessary qualifications to supply the buoys.

Caspian Pipeline’s network carries mainly Kazakh crude and is the major export route for Kazakhstan’s foreign-led Tengiz, Kashagan and Karachaganak oil-producing projects.

It also ships some barrels from Russian oil producers Rosneft and Lukoil.

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