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Ukraine Begins Registering Ships for its Humanitarian Shipping Corridor

Ikaria Angel
A grain-laden bulker prepares to depart Odesa (file image courtesy UN WFP)

Published Aug 13, 2023 10:44 PM by The Maritime Executive

Ukraine has reportedly started registering ships days after it announced creation of a “humanitarian corridor” in the Black Sea last week. The temporary corridor is meant to release ships trapped in Ukrainian ports since the Russian invasion started, as these vessels were not covered in the recently terminated grain export deal.

Addressing the local media on Saturday, spokesperson for the Naval Forces and the Armed Forces of Ukraine Dmytro Pletenchuk said the vessel registration process is open for ships interested in using the new passage.

“The decision to open these sea lanes was approved after Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI). The main objectives are to overcome the international humanitarian crisis and provide an opportunity for ship owners and companies to finally take back their ships, which have been in humanitarian captivity since the beginning of full-scale Russian armed aggression,” elaborated Pletenchuk.

Ukraine has proposed the “humanitarian corridor” directly to the International Maritime Organization in line with the recognition that it has a right to free commercial navigation, which is guaranteed by the international maritime law.

However, without a commitment from Russia that it will respect the corridor, the threat of attacks for ships that might participate still persists. Although the Ukrainian Navy has guaranteed security for ships using the temporary corridor, some shipping agents are jittery that the risk of a ship being hit is too high to permit sailing at the moment. The recent Russian boarding of an inbound Palau-flagged freighter reinforces this concern. 

“People want more details about the Ukrainian temporary shipping channel as it cannot work unless Russia gives a concrete commitment not to attack the ships,” a Germain grain trader told Reuters.

Further, insurers have cautioned that Russian and Ukrainian Black Sea waters are still within an elevated war risk area. “Now that the BSGI has come to an end, any voyage charter parties to Ukrainian Black Sea ports are now frustrated. In such cases, it is always better to seek a negotiated end to the charter or agreement to an alternative fixture since the losses fall where they lie once a contract is frustrated,” marine insurance firm Gard said in an advisory last week.

Around 60 ships are still stuck at the Ukrainian ports of Chornomorsk, Odesa and Pivdenny since the war began. Most of the vessels are containerships, which were not covered by the BSGI.