IMO increasing efforts to free stricken Black Sea vessels

Insurers have backed renewed efforts by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to look to free 60 vessels which have been trapped in Ukrainian ports since the Russian invasion began.

As the first anniversary of the invasion approaches IMO secretary general Kitack Lim (pic) said he was ramping up the organisation’s efforts to free the vessels and the crews which remain.

He said he hoped there could be a resolution to the current impasse “as soon as possible”.

“I hope a positive outcome will come … we are putting in a special effort,” he added.

The news has been welcomed by the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI)

A spokesperson said: “With the anniversary of the Ukraine conflict approaching, more than 40 vessels are still stranded in various Ukrainian ports.  IUMI welcomes the efforts by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to free these vessels and hopes that sufficient assurances can be received from both Russia and Ukraine to enable the vessels to leave safely.

“Since the summer the UN’s Black Sea Grain Initiative Russia has allowed bulkers to call at three ports in Ukraine to export corn, wheat and other foodstuffs, but this agreement has not permitted other trapped vessels to leave other Ukrainian ports.”

The IMO put the figures of the number of vessels trapped at 60.

“The ongoing armed conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine presents a serious and immediate threat to the safety and security of crews and vessels operating in the region,” it said. “IMO is continuing to liaise closely with all key stakeholders in the region to contribute to efforts to address the safety and security of seafarers and shipping.”

The organisation added: “IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has established an Emergency Task Force to coordinate efforts to mitigate the security and safety risks to shipping, ports and seafarers.  A stranded ship reporting form has been introduced. Guidance and advice to keep Flag States appraised of the ongoing situation is updated when it becomes available.”

At the start of the conflict approximately 2000 seafarers were stranded aboard 94 vessels in Ukrainian ports. 10 vessels subsequently safely departed the Sea of Azov and at the end of July, 2022,  84 merchant ships remained, with nearly 450 seafarers onboard. This number continues to steadily reduce. Many ships employed local ship keepers to replace crew, and some ships went into cold lay-up, with no crew remaining onboard. In some situations, crew chose to remain onboard.

The first ship to depart under the Black Sea Grain Initiative left Odesa on 1 August 2022.

“Today, early 2023, over 60 merchant vessels, unable to participate in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, remain stranded across the ports of Ukraine,” The IMO added. “In November 2022, the IMO Council took the decision ‘encouraging the Secretary-General to continue work on humanitarian efforts to evacuate all stranded ships and seafarers in the conflict area’.

“The tasks relating to the seafarers has been largely resolved, but the challenge of releasing the 60 plus remains ships persists. The IMO Secretary General is actively pursuing all avenues to develop, negotiate and facilitate the safe departure of these vessels.

“This situation remains a significant challenge and the IMO Secretariat remains focussed on making every effort to facilitate and support the departure of these vessels.”

For insurers the 24 February deadline is a significant one. If the vessels remain trapped for 12 months their owners can make a claims for their total loss. Should the owners claims insurers may well be facing a bill of close to $1 billion for the hull values alone with any lost or spoilt cargoes adding to the claims costs.

At the start of the conflict approximately 2000 seafarers were stranded aboard 94 vessels in Ukrainian ports. 10 vessels subsequently safely departed the Sea of Azov and at the end of July, 2022,  84 merchant ships remained, with nearly 450 seafarers onboard.

SHARE: