Ukraine accuses Russia of mining the Black Sea

Ukraine’s foreign ministry said yesterday that naval mines which have been found across the Black Sea were “uncontrolled drifting ammunition” deployed by Russian forces, contradicting earlier claims by its foes that they had been laid by the Ukrainian military.

In recent days, mines have had to be defused off Turkey and Romania as littoral states around the Black Sea are drawn into the spillovers of war between neighbours Russia and Ukraine.

Splash has tallied six merchant ships hit by various forms of munitions since the war began on February 24 with the death of one Bangladeshi seafarer to date.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry said yesterday “the deliberate use by Russia of drifting sea mines turns them into a de facto weapon of indiscriminate action, which threatens, first of all, civil navigation and human life at sea in the whole waters not only of the Black and Azov Seas, but also of the Kerch and Black Sea Straits.”

How can one supply ship equipment to Russia when it uses its fleet to mine the sea and destroy any opportunities for free navigation?

Volodymyr Zelensky

“Vessels navigating in the Black Sea should maintain lookouts for mines and pay careful attention to local navigation warnings,” ship insurer London P&I Club said in an advisory note on Tuesday. The area has been designated high risk by London insurers.

President Volodymyr Zelensky has called once again on the European Union and Norway to ban Russian ships from using ports across the continent.

“The European Union, and therefore, I hope, Norway, must finally implement a ban on Russian ships using ports on the continent. As long as Russia blocks our ports, it has no right to use all the ports of the free world,” the Ukrainian president said in his address to the Storting, the parliament of Norway, yesterday.

“How can one supply ship equipment to Russia when it uses its fleet to mine the sea and destroy any opportunities for free navigation?” Zelensky added.

With grain exports from its ports impossible, Ukraine has opened talks with Romania on shipping its farming exports via the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta, Ukraine’s agriculture ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. 

Romania’s agriculture ministry confirmed the talks over how to help Ukraine deliver its exports through Constanta port “as soon as possible”. There are many bulk carriers waiting at the port at present.

Traders now have managed to export the first supplies of Ukrainian corn to Europe via train, and Ukrainian transport authorities estimate about 600,000 tonnes of grain could be exported by trains per month via its western border. Prior to the war, monthly grain exports out of Ukraine exceeded 5m tons.

While there has been much written about changed energy and agricultural seaborne maps in the five weeks of the war and the sanctions on Russia, little coverage has been given to the lumber trades.

A new report from Seattle-based Wood Resources International suggests sanctions against Russia and its ally Belarus along with the closure of Ukrainian ports has dramatically altered the global trade of forest products.

The total lumber exports from the three countries in the war zone were 34m cu m in 2021. Over 25% of that volume was exported to countries with current sanctions against Russia and Belarus. In addition, the two major wood certification organisations, FSC and PEFC, have labelled all timber from Russia and Belarus as conflict timbers so they cannot be used in certified products, which will impact any country buying wood from Russia and Belarus and manufacturing certified products such as lumber, plywood, pulp, and paper for sales worldwide.

We seem obsessed here in London with sending toiletries and clothes for displaced refugees. But a Colgate won’t save a life

The total volume of softwood lumber that is now unlikely to reach the market in Europe and Asia – outside China – because of sanctions is an estimated 10m cu m, or just over 30% of the total export volume shipped from Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine in 2021.

Maritime companies and charities have been rallying to support families and individuals caught up in the conflict. Henry Keighley, managing director of London shipbroker Hull Search International, has just returned from the Polish/Ukrainian border where he delivered eight Swiss military reverse osmosis pumps to supply much needed drinking water in bombed out places such as the port city of Mariupol.

The pumps – paid for by Keighley and his client base – can convert 2,600 litres of river water a day to clean drinking water.

Speaking with Splash after his marathon driving effort from the UK to the Ukrainian border and back, Keighley urged people thinking of sending supplies to those afflicted by the war in Ukraine to think hard about what those on the ground really need.

“We seem obsessed here in London with sending toiletries and clothes for displaced refugees. But a Colgate won’t save a life. Protective clothing might, clean water definitely will but where are they?” Keighley said, adding: “It makes me incandescent with rage that the millions of men staying behind in Ukraine as Ukrainian army volunteers, formerly professionals like you and me; lawyers, doctors, plumbers, builders, teachers are fighting for their lives with no boots, no bullet proof jackets, no helmets, let alone military training.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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