Russian Missile Strike Damages Grain Terminal at Port of Odesa

Damage to the passenger terminal at Port of Odesa (Oleksiy Goncharenko)

Published Sep 25, 2023 1:08 PM by The Maritime Executive

In an apparent retaliatory attack, Russian forces launched a massive drone and missile strike on the Odesa region overnight Sunday, badly damaging civilian infrastructure for food exports. The attack followed just two days after Ukrainian missiles destroyed the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet.

The Ukrainian military reported that Russia launched 12 cruise missiles and two Oniks supersonic anti-ship missiles at targets in Odesa on Sunday night. The strikes hit a grain terminal, causing "very serious damage" and destroying as much as 40,000 tonnes of grain, Ukrainian MP Oleksiy Goncharenko said in a statement.

"The damage could affect the grain delivery system from the warehouse to the wharf along with the loading mechanisms. It will be very difficult to restore it in a short period of time, which means that, unfortunately, the Odesa port will not yet be able to receive bulkers and ship food," said Goncharenko.  

He added that several tugs were also damaged by falling debris, and repairs could cost several hundred thousand dollars. A small merchant ship, the bulker Comet, may also have been damaged. It had been in port since the beginning of the invasion. 

A hotel at the edge of Odesa's seaport complex was hit in the strike, and Russian forces claimed to have struck a "military base."  Goncharenko asserted that the hotel was disused and had been in a state of disrepair before the attack. (The Kempinski-Odesa Hotel had already been bankrupt for a decade before the war started.) In a statement, the hotel's owner accepted the loss of the building, calling his former property "a monument to carelessness and bad taste" and promising to rebuild a better waterfront. 

The attack's impact on Ukraine's new Black Sea grain export corridor remains to be seen. The first five vessels in the program all called at ports outside of Odesa, and none appeared directly affected by Sunday's strike.  

The Russian attack followed shortly after a series of Ukrainian strikes on Sevastopol, beginning with the destruction of a Kilo-class sub and culminating with Friday's attack on the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet. The attack on Friday was timed to arrive at 1200 hours local time, when the building was occupied, and may have killed as many as 34 Russian Navy officers - including fleet commander Adm. Viktor Sokolov, according to Ukrainian intelligence. 

The Russian military has acknowledged the attack on the headquarters building, but not the casualty count; in a statement, the Russian defense ministry said only that one servicemember was missing.