Boxship Completes Trip from Ukraine as Turkey Warns Russia on Intervention

Ukraine seaport
German managed containership was the first to leave Ukraine and reach Turkey (Alexander Kubrakov/Facebook)

Published Aug 17, 2023 6:33 PM by The Maritime Executive

The first international ship to break out of the Ukrainian seaports on the Black Sea arrived in Turkey around midnight on August 17 without incident. Ukrainian officials were calling the Black Sea transit a breakthrough while Turkey said it had warned Russia about further approaches to merchant ships saying efforts were needed to avoid attempts that will further escalate tensions.

The Hong Kong-flagged Joseph Schulte, reported to be owned by a Chinese bank and Germany’s Schulte Group had been stuck in Odesa since the invasion 17 months ago. The containership registered to use Ukraine’s new “humanitarian corridor” departing on August 16. Ukraine had said it would help to guide ships out of the ports to avoid mines but that the ships assumed the risks of the transit.

Ukraine said on Wednesday that the corridor would be used mostly to evacuate ships stuck in the seaports. It had previously said it filed the plan with the International Maritime Organization. 

“Ukraine has just made an important step toward restoring the freedom of navigation in the Black Sea,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote on social media. “The IMO reaffirmed Ukraine’s right to ensure freedom of navigation and urged Russia to cease threats and uphold international conventions.”

Similarly, Turkey which had been silent since Russia stopped and boarded a ship last Sunday reported to be owned by a Turkish company issued a statement from its presidency disputing the claims. They said the media reports were false but also noted that the ship was operating under the flag of Palau saying it was that nation’s responsibility. They also noted that the vessel was not in Turkish water at the time of the incident.

Despite that Turkey wrote in its statement, “after the intervention on the ship, the interlocutors in the Russian Federation were warned appropriately to avoid such attempts that would escalate the tension in the Black Sea.”


Route of the Joseph Schulte (Rusencenter/Twitter)


A review of the Joseph Schulte’s course shows that it took a circuitous route sticking to the coastline of the Black Sea instead of the UN’s previous corridor which permitted a more direct route across the Black Sea. The vessel initially was not showing its AIS signal, but it was later turned on showing that it crossed into Bulgarian territorial waters at midday and continued to skirt the coast till it reached Turkish waters. It is holding tonight just north of the Bosphorus.

This successful voyage comes as reports have said that as many as 60 ships remain caught in Ukraine’s ports. In addition, concerns over the Russian actions caused an increase in ships waiting in the Romanian anchorage near the mouth of the Danube. Reports said as many as 60 or 70 vessels are there now.

Efforts have been focusing on increasing the exports from the Danube seaports despite Russian drone attacks on the ports. In addition, Romania is working to flow more of Ukraine’s exports through its main seaport of Constanta. Reuters reported today that over eight million tonnes have gone through the Romanian seaport so far this year. Reports earlier in the week said Romanian was preparing the inland routes so that more grain could move along the Danube and a connector to reach Constanta without traveling along the coast.