Russian Missile Hits Bulker Arriving Odesa Killing Pilot and Injuring Crew

missile damage to bridge
Damage to the bridge of a bulker inbound to Odesa (Operational Command South)

Published Nov 8, 2023 4:31 PM by The Maritime Executive


Ukrainian officials are reporting that an unidentified cargo ship arriving in Odesa was struck by a Russian missile in the latest round of attacks on the port complex and Ukraine’s grain infrastructure. Crewmembers from the vessel and a port worker were injured while the Ukrainian pilot was killed according to the Operational Command South for the Defense of Ukraine.

“The rocket hit the superstructure of a civilian vessel under the flag of Liberia at the moment of its entry into the port,” the Command wrote on its social media updates. They are reporting that it was a H-31P rocket fired from a Russian aircraft flying over the Black Sea, but it is unclear if the target was in the port or if the ship was the intended target.

The Command posted a series of photos showing damage to the vessel’s accommodation block with windows apparently blown out and the bridge area in disarray. The overhead panels appear to be down with significant damage on the bridge.



Oleksandr Kubrakov, Vice Prime Minister for the Restoration of Ukraine, also took to social media to condemn the attack. He provided additional details reporting that the vessel was to load iron ore for export to China.

According to the report three crewmembers from the ship were injured, with one of them being hospitalized. All are said to be citizens of the Philippines. Also aboard the vessel was a Ukrainian pilot who was guiding the ship into the port and the reports are saying the pilot was killed. A port worker was also reported to have been injured in last night’s attack.

“That is why Ukraine is doing everything to strengthen its air defense and protect the south of Ukraine from Russian terrorist attacks,” wrote Kubrakov. “We are grateful to all our partners who help protect our skies.”

Kubrakov reported that it was the twenty-first targeted attack on the port infrastructure by Russia since the end of the Black Sea Grain Agreement in July. He said that 160 infrastructure facilities, including 122 vehicles, have been damaged in the attacks. Previously, Ukraine reported that large stockpiles of grain in warehouses waiting for export were also damaged by the Russian attacks.

The vessel hit in today’s attack has not been identified and it is difficult because most vessels are turning off their AIS signal when they are near Ukraine and not declaring Ukrainian ports as their destinations. However, since the corridor was reopened in late August as many as 100 ships have traveled to Ukraine’s three main seaports of Odesa, Chornomorsk, and Pivdennyi (Yuzhny) exporting both grain and other materials including iron ore and steel. 

The Command has repeatedly warned over the past few weeks that Russian airplanes were dropping what they suspected were bottom mines along the commercial corridor. Ukraine, however, denied reports late last month that vessel movements had been suspended on the corridor. They said the risks were known and with the support of the West, ships were making the transit.

Based on AIS signals, there appear to be as many as eight bulkers anchored near Sulina, near the Romania-Ukraine broader which is a common staging point for the vessel inbound to Ukraine. There are ships registered in Liberia, the Marshall Islands, and Panama in the anchorage and several others that appear outbound traveling along the Romanian coast southbound in the Black Sea.