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Fifth Bulker Breaks Out of Odesa After Being Trapped for 18 Months

bulker departing Odesa
Bulker named Puma became the fifth merchant ship to depart on Ukraine's humanitarian corridor (Oleksiy Goncharenko)

Published Sep 15, 2023 10:36 AM by The Maritime Executive

A fifth merchant ship is breaking out from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports traveling along the humanitarian corridor in an attempt to get away from Odesa after having been in the port for more than 560 days. Reports of this departure came from a member of the Ukrainian parliament on his social media accounts and were later confirmed by Ukraine's Vice Prime Minister for Infrastructure Oleksandr Kubrakov.

The departure of the Puma (34,979 dwt), a dry bulk carrier registered in the Cayman Islands, is being confirmed by the vessel’s AIS signal. Built in 2017, it is a modern vessel that has been in Odesa since February 2022 as one of possibly a dozen large ships caught in the port at the start of the war. The Puma had been cited as one of the vessels expected to participate in the Black Sea grain agreements but apparently was not able to depart Odesa.

The ship is managed by Johann Blumenthal, a company based in Hamburg and with an office in Asia. The same company also managed the Primus, another bulker, which departed on August 26 becoming the second ship to take advantage of the Ukrainian initiative to provide an exit route for ships tapped in its ports. The Primus reached Istanbul where she is reported still at anchor.

The Puma departed Odesa Friday morning and appears to be following the course along the coastline heading southwest toward Romanian waters. According to her AIS, she is traveling at 11 knots. Oleksandr Kubrakov reported the vessel is loaded with 30,000 tones of rapeseed and metal. She is not reporting a destination but the minister said Ukraine is considering "the possibility of using the corridor for vessels with non-military cargo, more precisely agroproducts mainly to Africa and Asia."

The departure comes after the UK this week accused Russia of targeting commercial ships during a missile attack on Odesa in late August. The report said Ukraine’s defense systems had been successful in intercepting the missiles. Separately, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the Royal Air Force is monitoring Russian activity to discourage actions against commercial shipping. He said the UK planned to increase its efforts as part of an initiative to address food insecurity and the exports of Ukrainian grain.

Ukraine offered commercial ships caught in its ports the opportunity to register to travel along the corridor which was established in August 2023, but warned they needed to accept the risks. Ukraine is providing support to guide the vessels out of the ports which have been mined. None of the four previous ships that took advantage of the corridor reported any intervention or encounters with Russian forces.