Russia exported more than 700,000 metric tons of oil products from the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk in 2023 using small river barges because of a lack of bigger tankers owing to EU sanctions and price cap limitations, market sources said and LSEG data showed.

Some ship owners have avoided Russian ports since the EU embargo and price cap on Russian refined oil products went into effect in February last year, forcing shippers to turn to a so-called shadow fleet of ageing tankers.

The shadow fleet has supported the flow of Russian barrels, but tanker availability remains an issue as the G7 group of nations continues to enforce the price cap.

Barges have helped relieve the shortage for exports over shorter distances, such as Black Sea across routes.

Turkey was the main route for small vessels carrying Russian oil products from the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk. Another barge destination was Bulgaria, which is allowed to buy fuel from Russia until the end of 2024.

Some barges also delivered fuel oil and diesel from Novorosiisk for ship-to-ship loadings on Panamax and Aframax class tankers near the Russian port of Kavkaz and Romanian port Constanta, LSEG data shows.

The main bulk of those small vessels are under Russian flag, but some are also under Panama and Liberia flags, shipping data shows.

Russia is widely using river barges for oil products supplies from refineries through inland waterways for export via Baltic and Black Sea ports during river navigation season.

(Reporting by Reuters Editing by David Goodman)