Scams involving false claims of oil fraud designed to extort money from owners may be on the rise, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) warns.
These types of scams were previously practiced in West Africa, but a new case involving a vessel that trades in the Arabian Gulf suggests they have spread to other countries.
In the case, a claim was made against the shipowner over a $50 million consignment of oil, which the customer says was loaded onto the vessel in Russia but never delivered to the Arabian Gulf.
A local court has issued a warrant of arrest against the vessel, creating a difficult situation for the owner.
"He is reluctant to risk taking the vessel into the jurisdiction where the warrant was issued for fear it will be arrested and he will become embroiled in litigation to get it released," ICC said.
"At the same time, he is obliged to enter the region under the terms of the vessel's current charter party."
ICC warns that the specifics of the case, including the creation of legitimate-appearing documents, suggest the scam could be carried out "anywhere around the world and particularly in states whose legal systems are less robust."
The ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) is calling for any shipowner who experiences a similar situation to contact them
"This may be the first of many other similar claims to be lodged against shipowners around the world if organised crime is involved and it is important that information on similar scams are collated" the group said.
Marine Insurer Skuld warned its members earlier this year that a variety of types of bunkering fraud could be on the rise, given the incentive provided by high fuel prices.