Ukrainian Court Seizes Russian Tanker

Ukrainian officials seize the Nika Spirit (Anatoliy Matios / Facebook)

By The Maritime Executive 07-30-2019 09:57:17

A district court in Odessa, Ukraine has ruled to uphold the seizure of the Russian product tanker Nika Spirit, which was detained by Ukrainian government security services in the port of Izmail on July 25. 

"The court has ruled to seize the said vessel together with the documents seized during the raid. We did it. Period!" said Ukrainian military prosecutor Anatoliy Matios in a social media post. 

The Nika Spirit's crew were not charged and have been allowed to depart. "Everyone is fine, they didn’t suffer any injuries, no one used violence against them," a spokesperson for the vessel's owner told Russian state media. "All sailors have returned to their home country, which is a good thing."

The legal action against the Nika Spirit is related to the vessel's involvement in the Russian seizure and detention of three Ukrainian Navy vessels in the Kerch Strait last November. The Nika Spirit's AIS broadcast identifies her IMO number as 8895528 - the same number belonging to the Russian tanker Neyma, which was used by Russian forces to block the navigable channel under the Kerch Strait Bridge during the altercation. 

Russian state media reports that the vessel has been sold since the Kerch Strait run-in. The new owner, Fos Shipping Management, told TASS that it is attempting to secure the vessel's release. 

Kerch Strait incident

On November 25, 2018, Russian border forces opened fire on and seized two Ukrainian patrol boats and one Ukrainian Navy tugboat as the vessels were retreating from the Kerch Strait Bridge. The Ukrainian vessels had attempted to transit through the strait without prior notification to Russian authorities; while this is permitted under international law, Russia views the strait as part of its "maritime border," and it has detained the vessels on the theory that they were illegally crossing into Russian territory. 

The Ukrainian vessels' 24 military crewmembers remain in Russian detention, and they face civilian criminal charges of "violating the Russian border." Earlier this year, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ruled that they should be freed, but the Kremlin has rejected this decision.