Black Sea Transportation Status: Ukrainian Conflict May 2022
After Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th 2022, the Black Sea became a dangerous area for maritime traffic. This article will provide an up to date Black Sea transportation status for maritime traffic, highlighting the dangers and things to consider if transiting the region.
Firstly, the Black Sea is primarily operating as usual, with some exceptions. As of May 9th, the Sea of Azov is closed to all traffic, and all Ukrainian sea ports are closed to outgoing and incoming traffic. Despite this, the Sulina Canal, which connects to the Danube River and the Black Sea, is still operational in Ukraine at ports such as Izmail. Still, these operate at ISPS (International Ship and Port Security) Level 3, meaning security is exceptional. ISPS Level 2 can be seen in Russian ports meaning that security is heightened.
Ship crews should be aware of the latest sanctions against Russia so as not to be in breach of these. In addition, Ukrainian crew are likely to come under more threat from Russian port authorities, so mariners should consider this.
The main risk is sea mines
Whilst most of the Black Sea is still open for transit, there are significant security threats and risks. The main risk is sea mines reported in areas outside Odessa and as far down as the Bosporus Strait. Mines are liable to drift, and advice has been issued for ships to have alert lookouts to report potential mines to the relevant authorities, mainly Turkish authorities. It is important to note that both Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of laying mines.
Ships are also at risk of being under attack. Many ships were stranded in Ukraine after the commencement of hostilities, and vessels such as the MTM Rio Grande, under Singapore's flag, have come under bombardment. Crew trapped in Ukrainian ports are running low on supplies, including fresh water and food.
The IMO (International Maritime Organization) announced on March 11th a Blue Safe Maritime Corridor to guarantee the protection of seafarers fleeing Ukraine and protect ships going to help stranded crew. However, this needs co-operation from multiple agencies and surrounding countries.
The vessel Jupiter was bombed by Russian forces
The Russian Black Sea fleet armed with Bastion and Kalibr missiles with air support also poses a threat to shipping as Russia has not limited their attacks to military targets. Under the flag of the Marshal Islands, the vessel Jupiter was bombed by Russian forces, but there were no casualties on the ship. In addition to mines, such conduct poses a significant risk to ships.
As the IMO has stated, crews and vessels are at far greater risk in the Black Sea due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Whilst other ports outside Ukraine operate relatively typically, the security threat from Russian and potentially Ukrainian conduct puts lives at risk for Black Sea transportation.
The situation will have ramifications for shipping costs and getting crew members in the industry, and its effects may be felt for years to come.
Developments in the region should be monitored closely to assess increases and decreases in escalation as it is advised that the operational status of Ukrainian ports could change at any time.