Ukraine Invasion Sees Indian-Classed Fleet More Than Double

The Indian flag
Updated Published

Since Russia's extensive invasion of Ukraine two years ago, there's been a notable increase in the number of vessels identified as part of the shadow or dark fleet. This uptick has led many Western service providers to distance themselves from a large portion of the merchant fleet to avoid the risk of sanctions.

Despite this shift, the percentage of ships classified by the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) members has only marginally decreased by two percentage points over this period, accounting for 50% of the entire fleet. This stability is largely attributed to the Indian Register of Shipping (IRClass).

Under the leadership of Arun Sharma, this IACS member's fleet has more than doubled since the onset of the conflict. According to Clarksons Research, the IRClass fleet was at 11.4 million gross tonnage (gt) in January 2022, just before the invasion, and has surged by 117.5% to 24.8 million gt today.

In the last couple of years, previously lesser-known classification societies and flag states have gained prominence, facilitating Russia's export operations.

For example, Gabon, a small nation along the Atlantic coast of Central Africa, experienced rapid growth last year, becoming the fastest-growing shipping registry. This growth has been significantly propelled in early 2024 by the reflagging of numerous vessels from the Sovcomflot fleet.

Clarksons Research data further reveals that, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Gabonese flag has seen an extraordinary 675% growth, reaching 6.2 million gt and making it the second-largest registry in Africa, trailing only behind Liberia.