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LPG tankers sanctioned by US catch fire off Crimea

London — Two LPG tankers, both on a US sanctions list for carrying Russian LPG to Syria, have caught fire, killing at least 14 crew members, Russian news agency TASS reported.

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The Candy and Maestro, both of which can carry a 4,000 mt LPG cargo, were involved in a ship-to-ship transfer Monday outside the Kerch Strait when a fire started, TASS said.

The Candy, also known as the Venice, was shown as being outside the Kerch Strait on Monday morning, according to data from Platts cFlow, trade flow software.

The satellite-tracking system on the Maestro, also known as the Metin, has been switched off since January 9, Platts cFlow data showed.

Both vessels were largely active in the Black Sea and eastern Mediterranean, according to Platts cFlow, moving regularly between the Russian LPG port of Temyruk, near Kerch on the Sea of Azov, to the Limassol STS area off the east coast of Cyprus, near Lebanon and Syria.

In November, the US Treasury listed 35 tankers that were carrying crude and refined products to Syria with help of Iranian and Russian companies. The Candy and the Maestro were both on that list.

The US has been targeting persons, entities and tankers transporting petroleum to Syrian ports.

"Countries such as Iran and Russia have been involved in providing Syria with petroleum. Those who facilitate the financial transfers, logistics, or insurance associated with these or other petroleum shipments are at risk of being targeted by the United States for sanctions," the US Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control has said previously.

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The Maestro, a Tanzania-flagged LPG carrier built in 1990, is registered to Maestro Shipping Ltd while the Candy is a Tanzania-flagged vessel built in 1992 and registered to Milano Shipping Ltd in The Valley, Anguilla, according to cFlow and shipping sources.

Neither company was available for comment.

Tensions in the Kerch Strait escalated late November after Russia seized three Ukrainian naval vessels in the Sea of Azov off Crimea.

Ukraine is a major transit route for most key commodities, namely crude oil, gas, refined products, LPG, corn, steel and pig iron.

It is particularly crucial for gas, with 94 Bcm of Russian sent via the Ukrainian network to Europe and Turkey in 2017. Those flows are equal to 20% of total European consumption.

--Eklavya Gupte, eklavya.gupte@spglobal.com

--Katherine Dunn, katherine.dunn@spglobal.com

--Edited by Dan Lalor, newsdesk@spglobal.com