Bulker Chartered by Cargill Lightly Damaged by Likely Black Sea Mine

bulker departing Ukraine
Ukraine reports bulkers are continuing to sail the corridor despite another incident today (file photo)

Published Nov 17, 2023 8:13 PM by The Maritime Executive


Media reports from Ukraine are saying that a bulker departing the port of Pivdennyi (Yuzhne) reported an explosion that was likely caused by a floating mine. While the vessel is reported to be lightly damaged and proceeding under its own power, it came as efforts were underway to introduce a new war risk insurance program to encourage more ships to undertake grain exports from Ukraine and Russia also reported that it has commenced grain exports.

According to unnamed Ukrainian officials and security consultants who spoke with Reuters and Bloomberg, the vessel is believed to be the Georgia S, a 75,000 dwt bulker registered in Liberia. The reports are that the vessel, which is managed by Sea Gate Navigation of Greece, is operating under charter to Cargill. The vessel is reported to be loaded with a cargo of wheat.

The last AIS signal from the vessel on the evening of November 17 shows her off the Romanian coast, although some reports were that she was heading to Constanta, Romania for an inspection. She was following the standard practice of limiting her AIS signals while she was in Ukrainian waters and not declaring destinations on AIS. She was shown heading to the Bosporus, where she was due on November 18.

This latest incident came as one of Ukraine's deputy ministers, Yuriy Vaskov highlighted to the news agency Interfax-Ukraine the continuing volumes on Ukraine’s Black Sea shipping corridor. They reported that it has now surpassed 150 ships that have made the transit. A total of 3.2 million tons of grain has been exported since August and an additional 1.2 million tons of other material. 

Ukraine reported that 30 more ships were currently loading in its Black Sea ports with 22 ships that would be carrying more than 700,000 tons of grain. The eight additional vessels were reported to be loading other cargo.

Insurance broker Marsh said on Wednesday that it was launching a new facility to provide affordable insurance to support the grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. It was previously reported that the UK’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had helped to broker the new program. Marsh had provided a similar service starting in July 2022 to support the Black Sea Grain Initiative set up by the United Nations.

Marsh said the new effort was being underwritten by insurers based at Lloyd’s of London and it was developed in coordination with Ukrainian financial institutions and banks. They said it would be providing up to $50 million in hull and separate protection & indemnity war risk insurance. The Ukrainian institutions will be issuing standby letters of credit confirmed by DZ Bank. 

The goal was to offset some of the concerns that emerged in the market after another bulker docked in Ukraine was stuck last week by a likely errant Russian missile. The UK Defense Ministry believed the Russian pilot was attempting to target a Ukrainian radar signal but that the missile instead locked on the vessel’s transmissions. Risk insurance costs reportedly tripled after the prior attack, but it is unclear how the markets would respond to today’s incident.

While Ukraine continues to move aggressively to maintain its grain exports, Russia’s Agricultural Minister Dmitry Patrushev announced that they have also begun exports. He wrote on Telegram that Russia was fulfilling the promise of Vladimir Putin and two vessels had departed each carrying 25,000 tons of free grain. He said these ships were heading to Somalia and Burkina Faso and that other ships would be following.