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Seafarers under increased threat as two bulk carriers are detained by Russian forces

Concern is growing for the wellbeing of thousands of seafarers, both at sea and ashore, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine takes its toll on merchant shipping.

The Ukrainian government has indicated two vessels were apprehended yesterday in Romanian waters near Snake Island towards the Crimean peninsula in addition to the three ships Splash reported last week which were hit by Russian military in the Black Sea last week.

The government stated that the Ukrainian flagged bulk carriers Afina and Princess Nicole (pictured), were sailing in Romanian waters when, 22 miles off Snake Island, they received a command to approach a Russian warship for inspection.

When both ships approached the Russian warships, their AIS were turned off and communication stopped. Latest data indicates this morning that the ships, laden with grain, are now staying 18 miles off the coast of Crimea with a total of 50 crew apprehended.

Kiev condemned the incident as an act of piracy.

Many ships remain stuck in the war-torn area with the battle for key ports such as Odessa intensifying over the past 24 hours.

“The offensive in the south from Mariupol is reportedly advancing more rapidly, having taken the port city of Berdyansk amidst fighting also in Melitopol and Kherson along with Odessa,” a daily shipping update from Norwegian broker Lorentzen & Co stated this morning.

Shipping platform Sea/ counts 109 merchant ships in Ukrainian waters this morning, down from 157 registered at the start of the conflict five days ago.

International Maritime Organization secretary-general Kitack Lim repeated over the weekend his urge to keep seafarers safe from the conflict.

“I am gravely concerned about the spill over effects of the military action in Ukraine on global shipping, and logistics and supply chains, in particular the impacts on the delivery of commodities and food to developing nations and the impacts on energy supplies,” Lim said over the weekend, adding: “Along with the people of Ukraine, innocent ships, seafarers and port workers engaged in legitimate trade should not be adversely impacted by this growing crisis. Shipping, particularly seafarers, cannot be collateral victims in a larger political and military crisis – they must be safe and secure.”

Henrik Jensen, who heads up Danica Crewing Services, a big supplier of Ukrainian crew to the global merchant fleet, has called on shipowners to increase the internet access by volume and speed on vessels with Ukrainian crews onboard enabling them to better stay in contact with their families and follow the developments in the news.

Danica has been arranging for staff to get out of the country but many have responded that they appreciate the offer, but have decided to stay and defend their country. Moreover, men between the age of 18 to 60 years are not allowed to leave the country.

“I have no words. What happens in Ukraine is insane,” Jensen said.

Bjorn Hojgaard, CEO of Anglo-Eastern, a shipmanager with a sizeable presence in Odessa, said Ukrainian crew changes had been “hibernated” because no one can get out of the country at present.

“If anyone onboard wants to go home, we will help them to get home as much as we can. Right now, a few have asked for that but there are also some who want to extend their contract, to continue to earn money for the family,” Hojgaard told Splash today.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has warned of supply chain disruption should the free movement of Ukrainian and Russian seafarers be impeded.

The Seafarer Workforce Report, published in 2021 by BIMCO and ICS, reports that 1.89m seafarers are currently operating over 74,000 vessels in the global merchant fleet.

Of this total workforce, 198,123 (10.5%) of seafarers are Russian, while Ukraine accounts for 76,442 (4%).

In other shipping news related to the Ukraine invasion Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Sunday it would limit Russia’s naval presence in the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits, a move requested by Ukraine.

Meanwhile, energy giants bp and Equinor have both announced plans to exit the Russian market.

Credit Splash247 by Sam Chambers

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