Updated: Ukraine Denies Reports of Suspension of Black Sea Shipping
Ukrainian officials are denying reports today that there has been a temporary suspension of shipping on its Black Sea corridor. Earlier comments highlighted that no vessels were moving to the three major Black Sea ports after reports from the Ukrainian military that Russian forces were apparently placing bottom mines on portions of the sea corridor.
Kyiv-based brokerage and consultancy Barva Invest posted statements on its social media saying that the Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority released a notice late on October 25 announcing the suspension of vessel movements along the corridor. Their analysts stated that vessels had already been stopped for the past two days noting that the port authority cited the "explosive threat" that arose as a result of increased Russian aviation activity.
Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, however, issued a statement denying that vessels had stopped loading. He is saying the effort took into account the military dangers along with the weather conditions, while writing “All available routes established by the Ukrainian Navy are valid and being used by civilian vessels.” He contends that 23 ships are loading in the ports of Odesa, Chornomorsk, and Pivdennyi (Yuzhny) and that 33 vessels have already exported more than 1.3 million tons of Ukrainian agricultural products and other cargo.
Currently, there are no AIS signals coming from vessels in the main Ukrainian Black Sea ports, but ships have been known to turn off their signals while in Ukraine. It appears based on AIS signals that several bulkers are currently holding at anchor south of Sulina, Romania. Included in the grouping is the Calypso V (76,600 dwt), a Greek-owned bulker registered in Panama reporting on its AIS that it was heading to Chornomorsk, Ukraine. The vessel appears to have been holding for up to four days.
The Joint Coordination Center of the Southern Operational Command for Ukraine had in the past few days reported the increase of Russian aircraft operating in the area along the shipping corridor. Yesterday they reported as part of the ongoing Russian air assault, fixed-wing planes “dropped four unidentified means of impact (probably bottom mines) in the Black Sea in the direction of navigation corridors of civil shipping.” This followed a report at the beginning of the week citing “another dropping of unidentified objects in the direction of humanitarian navigation corridors of civil shipping.” They also reported that two vessels with overwater rocket carriers, equipped with 16 Caliber-type rockets had been seen among the fleet of five Russian warships in the Black Sea.
Commenting on the situation in the Black Sea, the command today said “We will continue to monitor the situation and keep you updated as new information becomes available.” Their daily update also included details on 10 air strikes across the region including damage to another grain terminal and warehouse.
Concerns over vessel movements and safety come just days after Ukraine highlighted its success at building traffic along the corridor. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a speech said they had reached 50 vessels departing Ukraine’s ports while predicting 50 more would soon be coming.
Originally announced on August 8 for “the safe evacuation of ships,” caught in the ports since the start of the war, vessels have been using the corridor for nearly two months. Five ships were evacuated while Ukraine also reports shipments of grains and foodstuffs as well as some iron products. Representatives from the agricultural operations are predicting that Ukraine will grow volumes traveling the corridor in the coming weeks.