Turkey Finds Drifting Naval Mine East of the Bosporus

Turkish Navy minehunter Akcay (file image courtesy Russian Ministry of Defense)

Published Apr 6, 2022 10:33 PM by The Maritime Executive

Turkish military forces have located and neutralized another drifting naval mine in the Black Sea, marking the third in Turkish waters and the fourth in the region since the start of the invasion of Ukraine. On Wednesday, an Underwater Defense (SAS) dive team was ordered to the site to neutralize the mine, and it was successfully detonated. 

In a statement, Turkey's defense ministry said that a Liberian-flagged merchant ship had spotted the mine off the coast of Kefken, a town about 50 nm to the east of the Black Sea entrance to the Bosporus. The mine's location was the furthest to the east yet, indicating that the area affected by this hazard may be growing. 

The previous three mines were found in the southwestern corner of the Black Sea. On March 28, the Romanian Navy minesweeper Vice Admiral Constantin Balescu neutralized a floating naval mine about 40 nm off Capu Midia, a Romanian military base located near Constanta. On the same day, a Turkish Navy team found and neutralized a mine near Igneada, a seaside town near the Bulgarian border. On March 26, Turkish forces found and neutralized another "old type" mine near the busy entrance to the Bosporus, where commercial traffic approaches 40,000 ships per year. 

To reduce the risk of an accident, Turkey has deployed extra patrol vessels and aircraft to monitor its Black Sea coastline, and it has temporarily banned fishing at night in the area. Merchant vessels are advised to keep an attentive mine lookout at all times when navigating the region. 

Russia has blamed the drifting munitions on failed mine mooring cables at Ukrainian-laid harbor and beach defenses. In anticipation of an amphibious assault, Ukrainian forces have laid naval mines in the vicinity of Odesa and Mykolaiv. However, Ukraine maintains that the drifting mines were set loose by Russian forces in order to disrupt shipping and discredit the Ukrainian military. The UK Ministry of Defense assesses that the mines are "almost certainly" the result of Russian naval activity. 

For now, Lloyd's Joint War Committee has not yet expanded its designated Black Sea risk area to cover the regions where mines have been recently found. In a statement on March 31, it said that the munitions found so far were "seemingly not fully armed as the caps were not exposed." Going forward, if large numbers of live mines are discovered, exceeding the minehunting capacity of the coastal states' forces, the committee will "move to reassess the Listed Areas" in the Black Sea.