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UK Says Likely Errant Missile Struck Bulker in Ukraine

damage from missile strike
Damage to the bridge of the Kmax Rule (Prosecutor's Office photo)

Published Nov 10, 2023 12:57 PM by The Maritime Executive

 

In its latest update on the war in Ukraine, the UK’s Ministry of Defence is suggesting the possibility that the missile strike on a bulker docked in Ukraine could have been an errant missile poorly deployed by its Russian pilot and not a targeted attack. While condemnation of the attack continues and Ukraine reports that ships are still sailing in its commercial corridor, the cost of insurance has reportedly tripled the day after the incident.

The Liberian-flagged Kmax Ruler was hit by a missile on November 8 while docked in the port of Pivdennyi (Yuzhny) killing the port’s pilot who was on the bridge and injuring three crewmembers and a port worker. Ukraine reported based on shrapnel and other evidence that it believed the attack was carried out with a Russian KH-31 (AS-17 Krypton) missile which is used as an anti-radar device.

In a Defence Intelligence report dated November 10, the UK Ministry highlights the information from Ukraine. Their analysis however suggests the Kmax Ruler may not have been the target.

“It is a realistic possibility that the air-launched missile, in the absence of a live military radar signature, locked into the civilian ship’s radar. If so, this would demonstrate poor weapons employment tactics on behalf of the Russian pilot, the UK writes in its Defense Intelligence report.

Vessels in the Ukrainian ports have been turning off systems including the AIS signals, possibly to reduce the chances of becoming a target of the attacks. They are also not declaring their destinations in Ukraine.

The EU’s lead spokesperson for external affairs issued a statement on social media on Thursday saying, “This attack on a foreign civilian vessel is yet another escalation by Russia and proof of Russia terrorizing civilian naval traffic. By targeting Ukrainian ports and export facilities, Russia deliberately exacerbates global food security crisis.”

Despite the latest attack, additional vessels are continuing to use the corridor. Yesterday, Ukraine said six laden vessels departed from the three ports on the Black Sea while five other vessels were reported to be waiting to enter the ports. AIS signals today show at least three bulkers in the anchorage off Romania that will be heading to the Ukrainian ports.

“Bulk carriers, manned by innocent seafarers, represent the epitome of non-combatant vessels,” the trade group INTERCARGO said in a statement. They called on the countries in the Black Sea region to ensure the safety and security of seafarers.