my favourite new arrival today to the Suez Canal party is this incredibly conspicuous Russian warship labelled as an oil tanker that’s just anchored amongst the stranded cargo ships. chillin.

realized what the map screenshot is reminding me of glgkdkkdkfjdksj

“russian warship 545 is unhappy”

“well life isn’t fucking fair is it russian warship 545”

Okay this just got INTERESTING

So I went back to check on my pal Russian Warship 545 (registration name KOLA), and being unable to find the red dot in the area, thought it had moved on. Curious as to when and where to, I ran a search on Vesselfinder for the name “Russian Warship 545”.

No results found.

“Okay, that’s fair. Maybe you can’t search for naval vessels by name. National security and all.” I said to myself. Then I remembered that I’d screenshotted the ID number (see above), so I ran a search for that instead.

This is when shit got weird.

So I mentioned just now that while the vessel showed up earlier today under the AIS tracking title “Russian Vessel 545”, the legal registration name listed at the bottom of its details page was “KOLA”. This isn’t that weird in and of itself — I was poking around home on the map earlier today, and found Canadian naval vessels with tracking titles like “Canadian Warship 707” and then the actual vessel name (HMCS FancyName or what have ye) listed as the registration name along with the flag country.

I mentioned also that I couldn’t find Russian Warship 545’s distinctive red dot (red is the colour for search and rescue, coast guard, and naval vessels in Vessel Finder) in the Red Sea anchorage field outside the canal when I went to check up on it.

So imagine my surprise when I type the ID number for “Russian Warship 545” into the search, and am told IT IS STILL LOCATED IN THE RED SEA ANCHORAGE.


But not ONLY that.

It has now been switched to an ORANGE tanker vessel dot, and is showing up with “KOLA” as its AIS tracking name, looking for all intents and purposes like a regular oil tanker:

Except for the fact that when you open the details page on Vessel Finder, the image attached is VERY MUCH STILL A RUSSIAN WARSHIP:

And the specs and details are all the same as earlier, including being owned by what is still listed (due to the 1967 manufacturing date) as, I shit you not, “Soviet Navy”:


On further investigation via Marine Tracker, I’ve found what seems to be a much less “stripped from Wikipedia”, and much less impressive, image of our friend Russian Warship 545 (which is still listed as the AIS name on Marine Tracker):

This page on Baltic Shipping also associates similar pictures with the same ID numbers, further corroborating this and giving a bit more extra backstory about the builder etc. “Kola” is listed as an Altay-class Russian military tanker with a matching 1967 build date on this List of Active Russian Military Vessels, and was actively doing stuff for the Russian Navy in the Mediterranean within the last two years (x) (x).


My best guess at an explanation for all this weirdness?

  1. Creaky old Soviet-built oil tanker KOLA, owned by Russian military, was doing regular oil-getting business in the area.
  2. Said oil tanker is listed on some AIS records in the same manner as most military-owned vessels, “[nationality] warship [hull #]”, and with a red military ID dot.
  3. Somebody working for Vessel Finder is really lazy about attaching a database image to the profile for KOLA. (Interestingly enough, reverse image search turned up no other instances of the warship image used on the listing).
  4. Then, this week, Ever Given does the world’s worst parallel parking job and blocks up the Suez canal.
  5. KOLA, gone to go get oil and bring it back to the fleet, is now stranded with many other oil tankers in the middle of the Red Sea, unable to pass back up through to the Black Sea or wherever the hell she was going.
  6. At some point, perhaps somebody involved in the control/management of KOLA had the thought, possibly while sitting around at anchor for two days twiddling thumbs and playing cards, “hey, you don’t think our AIS designation would make us look like we’re up to some really sketchy shit out here, do you? given that hundreds if not thousands of random people are looking at vessel tracking sites right now?”
  7. “Hm. Shit.”
  8. (Alternatively, somebody onboard is killing time on their phone looking at the shipping carnage and notices their bright red tracking dot and alarming name).
  9. Phone calls are made/things are updated and Creaky old Soviet-built military-owned oil tanker KOLA hastily has its AIS display name updated to read as its registration name instead of “Russian Warship 545”, now with an orange oil tanker classification marker.
  10. This change has the unintended result of making them look EXPONENTIALLY sketchier than they did before.

ALTERNATIVELY: Less funny version, it may just be a glitch in Vessel Finder’s software that gets triggered by the two different names and the conflicting classifications. When I went to look at it again just a minute ago, we were back to a red indicator and “Russian Warship 545”:

Bottom line: do I think that anything freaky or untoward is ACTUALLY happening with this vessel? Not really.

Do I find this all EXTREMELY entertaining? You bet your ass I do.

Highly recommend just fucking around on vessel tracking sites for a few hours. Gosh what a fun time to be had.

unfortunately in my fact check I spent so long researching this tough and dependable 54-year-old Soviet naval refuelling vessel that I’ve accidentally become weirdly fond of it. she’s a sturdy old girl. I wish her well

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