Freighters Collide in Kerch Strait

Courtesy Shot / Telegram

Published Nov 30, 2023 4:55 PM by The Maritime Executive

Last week, Russian maritime safety authorities closed the Kerch Strait to navigation through November 30 due to severe stormy weather. On Wednesday, three merchant ships collided in a pileup in the strait - exactly the outcome that the closure was intended to avert. 

Video of the collision has circulated on social media. According to the Ukrainian Navy, the accident was caused by a "violation of water safety requirements."

"The Russian occupiers constantly neglect security requirements. They turn off, for example, the system of identification of ships in the area so that it is impossible to see how they violate international maritime law," said Ukrainian Navy spokesman Capt. Dmytro Pletenchuk in a radio interview (transcribed and translated by Ukrinform). 

Pletenchuk noted that the Kerch Strait Bridge's pylons create an artificially narrow passage through the strait, restricting transits between the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. The construction makes it easier for Russia to control marine traffic, as its border service has previously done by maneuvering a freighter lengthways across the opening (in fair weather). 

A video of the collision shows two freighters stopped in close proximity to each other and rolling heavily. The bows of the two vessels make contact from the rolling at low speed. The extent of damage was not reported.

Ukrainian Telegram channel Shot identified the ships as the Matros Shevchenko and Matros Pozynich. The outlet said that after the collision, the two vessels drifted into an anchored ship, the Kavkaz-5. 

Russia's ferry operations across Kerch Strait have also been suspended because of the storm. The severe winter weather has caused multiple casualties and navigation closures around the region, affecting the ports and waterways from Russia to Turkey to Greece.