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Ukraine Attempts Corridor to Release Foreign Ships Caught in Ports

Ukrainian port
Ukraine is attempting to provide a corridor for foreign ships caught in its ports (Interior Ministry file photo)

Published Aug 10, 2023 2:21 PM by The Maritime Executive

Ukraine is once again attempting to open a temporary humanitarian corridor to facilitate the exit of ships trapped in its Black Sea ports. There have been several previous attempts, including negotiations with the Russians about providing safe transit for ships that have been in the ports since the February 2022 invasion and were not included in the Black Sea grain agreement.

In a statement released by the Ukrainian Navy and the Southern Command, they reported the routes would be clearly defined and would be primarily for the exit of civilian vessels in the ports of Odesa, Chernomorsk, and Pivdennyi (Yuzhnyi). Speaking with Reuters, a spokesman suggested they would put cameras on the vessels and broadcast to show that it was “purely humanitarian and has no military purpose.”

In their statement, Ukrainian offices said, “Vessels whose owners/captains officially confirm readiness to sail in current conditions will be allowed to pass through the routes.” They noted that the routes had been filed with the United Nations. They warned that there is a “military threat and mortal danger from the Russian Federation,” despite an appeal from the International Maritime Organization urging Russia to comply with international conventions and stop threats to trade shipping in the Black Sea.

After the Black Sea grain agreement expired in mid-July, Russia warned that ships could be considered combatants if they entered the waters near Ukraine. So far, no ships have been attacked but there have been reports of Russia laying mines at the entrances to Ukrainian ports as part of an effort to enforce a blockade. Several smaller cargo ships however did cross the Black Sea heading to the Danube ports and an anchorage in Romanian waters near the mouth of the Danube. Russia responded with drone attacks on Ukraine’s Danube seaport.

It is unclear how many foreign ships might remain in Ukraine’s Black Sea ports to possibly take advantage of the proposed humanitarian corridor or if it is more a propaganda move. Some reports are saying there are dozens of possible ships while Reuters suggested there are as many as 60 ships trapped in the Black Sea ports. They cited a containership and two cargo ships loaded with metal at Odesa.

Several international ship owners evacuated ships in February and March 2022. These efforts were increased after several ships were hit and crewmembers were injured and killed.

Turkey as part of the last extension of the grain agreement said it was negotiating for the release of its ships caught in Ukraine’s ports. Turkey had reported in May 2023 that Russia agreed not to target its civilian ships and that it hoped to bring them all out of Ukraine as part of the agreement.