March 30, 2023
Economy International

Over 300 Seafarers Trapped for a Year in Ukraine Ports Amid War with Russia – Urgent Calls for Release

In the wake of the war with Russia, 331 seafarers and 61 ships have been stranded in Ukrainian ports for over a year, prompting urgent calls for their release from the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and over 30 other organizations and companies. The ICS represents 80% of all global vessels and sees the situation as a safety and security concern for the crews and ships. Secretary general of the ICS, Guy Platten, has expressed concerns about the danger of the ports, which may contain sea mines and pose a threat of attack, making it unsafe for the ships to move. Some crew members have been hit by collateral damage, resulting in death or injury, and ships have been damaged as well.

Although the number of trapped seafarers and vessels has reduced since the start of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allows for the safe passage of grain-carrying vessels, the ICS is still worried about the safety and health of the remaining 331 seafarers, who have been unable to disembark for almost a year. The sailors hail from 15 countries in Europe and Asia.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative, brokered by the UN and Turkey with Ukraine and Russia in July 2022, was extended by 120 days after its initial expiry in November 2022. It is up for renewal again in March, but Russia has expressed dissatisfaction with certain aspects of the deal and requested the lifting of sanctions affecting its agricultural exports, including fertilizer. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has indicated his support for reopening Russian ammonia exports in exchange for a prisoner swap.

The ICS is in regular communication with the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the UN’s maritime arm, to find ways to facilitate the safe passage of these stranded vessels. One possibility is allowing vessels carrying grain to leave by convoy from three open ports in Ukraine. However, Platten is worried about the renewal of the grain deal and hopes that all parties will work together to extend the initiative into the spring and summer. The IMO has emphasized the importance of humanitarian efforts to evacuate all stranded ships and seafarers in the conflict area and is actively pursuing ways to facilitate their safe departure.

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