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Ukraine Gets New Mine Countermeasures Vessels

Mine countermeasures
File image courtesy Royal Navy

Published Dec 10, 2023 10:55 PM by The Maritime Executive

Ever since it ended the Black Sea Grain Initiative earlier this year, Russia has been determined to cripple Ukraine’s grain exports, and one of its tactics has been to lay sea mines targeting commercial ships. In recent months, at least three ships have been damaged by mines along the route, and Ukraine says the number could be as high as nine ships.

To counter Russia’s covert mine-planting missions, which are aimed at deterring commercial shipping from serving Ukraine's grain export trade, Ukraine is set to acquire two minehunting ships from the Royal Navy.

The transfer of the mine countermeasures vessels (MCMVs) is part of a new initiative dubbed the Maritime Capability Coalition, which has been established with the mission of helping Ukraine export its grain. The coalition, which will be led by the UK, includes Norway and is open to more members. It is designed to strengthen Ukraine’s maritime capabilities over the long term, enhancing its ability to ensure security in the northwestern Black Sea.

The UK will transfer two of its three Sandown Class mine-hunting vessels. Measuring 52 meters, the vessels come equipped with two underwater remote-controlled mine-disposal vehicles. These are fitted with a lighting system, low light level black and white camera and color camera, and are controlled via a 2,000 meter fibre-optic cable. The vessels are also fitted with high-resolution sonar.

“These minehunters will deliver vital capability to Ukraine which will help save lives at sea and open up vital export routes, which have been severely limited since Putin launched his illegal full-scale invasion,” said Grant Shapps, UK Defence Secretary.

The UK continues to be among the top supporters of Ukraine since the Russian invasion, allocating $5.7 billion in military support so far. 

Ukraine is projecting a drastic drop in exports despite a bumper harvest. Data by the Ukrainian Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food show the country has exported around 8.7 million tonnes of grain and legumes since July 1. This is around a 30 percent reduction from the 12.3 million tonnes exported in the same time period last year.

Commercial shipping is a lifeline for Ukraine, and its government is working hard to ensure that its trade is attractive for shipowners. Last month the country partnered with UK company Marsh McLennan to launch a new ‘Unity Facility’ that will provide affordable shipping insurance for grain and other critical food supplies globally from its Black Sea ports.