Seafarers under threat: 2 bulk carriers detained by Russian forces

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine takes a toll on merchant ships, there is a rising concern for the safety of thousands of seafarers, both at sea and shore. The Ukrainian government has stated that two vessels were seized yesterday in Romanian seas near Snake Island, heading towards the Crimean peninsula, in addition to the three ships being struck by the Russian military in the Black Sea.

According to the authorities, the Ukrainian flagged bulk ships Afina and Princess Nicole (pictured) were operating in Romanian seas when they got an instruction to approach a Russian warship for inspection 22 miles off Snake Island.

When both the ships reached the Russian vessels, their AIS was deactivated and communication was stopped. According to the most recent statistics, the grain-laded ships are presently 18 miles off the shore of Crimea, with a total of 50 crew members detained. Kiev condemned the incident as an act of piracy.

Many ships are still stranded in the conflict zone, with the struggle for vital ports like Odessa increasing. "The attack in the south from Mariupol is apparently proceeding more quickly, having gained the port city of Berdyansk amidst fighting also in Melitopol and Kherson, as well as Odessa," according to a daily shipping statement from Norwegian broker Lorentzen & Co.

The shipping portal counts 109 merchant ships in Ukrainian waters, down from 157 registered at the start of the conflict. Over the weekend, Indian Maritime Organization Secretary-General Kitack Lim reiterated his call to keep seamen safe from the fighting.

Lim said, “I am deeply concerned about the consequences of Ukraine's military activity on global shipping, logistics, and supply chains, particularly the repercussions on the delivery of commodities and food to underdeveloped countries and the influence on energy supplies.”

He also added that “Along with the people of Ukraine, innocent ships, seafarers and port workers engaged in legitimate trade should not be adversely impacted by this growing crisis. Shipping, particularly seafarers, cannot be collateral victims in a larger political and military crisis – they must be safe and secure.”

Henrik Jensen, CEO of Danica Crewing Services, a major supplier of Ukrainian crew to the global merchant fleet, has urged shipowners to enhance internet access volume and speed on vessels with Ukrainian crews on board, allowing them to better communicate with their families and keep up with news developments.

Danica has been preparing for staff to leave the country, but many have answered saying they appreciate the gesture but will remain to protect their nation. Furthermore, men between the ages of 18 and 60 are not permitted to leave the nation. “I have no words. What happens in Ukraine is insane,” Jensen said.

According to Bjorn Hojgaard, CEO of Anglo-Eastern, a ship manager with a significant presence in Odessa, said that Ukrainian crew changes have "hibernated" because no one can leave the country at the moment. "If anyone onboard wants to return home, we will assist them in every way we can." Right now, a handful has requested it, but others wish to continue their contract in order to keep earning money for their families," Hojgaard told.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has warned of supply chain disruption if Ukrainian and Russian mariners' freedom of movement is restricted. According to the Seafarer Workforce Report, released in 2021 by BIMCO and ICS, there are presently 1.89 million seafarers operating over 74,000 vessels in the worldwide merchant fleet. Of this total workforce, 198,123 (10.5%) of seafarers are Russian, while Ukraine accounts for 76,442 (4%).

In other shipping-related news, Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, stated on Sunday that the country will limit Russia's naval presence in the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits, as asked by Ukraine. Meanwhile, both bp and Equinor have indicated intentions to quit the Russian market.

News Credits: Splash247