Uninvolved Seafarers become Pawns in a major political Conflict
The security situation in the Black Sea is unbearable. The closure of all Ukrainian commercial seaports is still in effect. Merchant ships and their crews are stuck have not been able to leave for months, and regularly come under fire. At the same time, uncontrolled floating mines endanger vessel traffic in the Black Sea. Shipping is always exposed to risks. Every day, ships sail through areas designated as High-Risk Areas, just think of the threat of piracy. These risks are manageable, by appropriate safety procedures, technical precautions, voyage preparations and crew trainings. However, it is unacceptable that uninvolved seafarers become pawns in a major political conflict. Merchant shipping needs safe corridors and open ports!
The negotiations between the UN, Turkey, Ukraine and Russia, which have been ongoing for weeks, and the agreement about humanitarian maritime corridors signed last week give cause for some optimism but are still fraught with many uncertainties. This was demonstrated by the attacks on the Port of Odessa the following day. Safe passage for ships and their crews – from Ukrainian ports and throughout the Black Sea - is the only way to protect our crews and vessels. This is the only way shipping can fulfil its important supply mandate by delivering essential cargo, especially foodstuffs, to communities around the world and ensuring that less privileged and developed regions can participate in world trade. And only in this way can merchant shipping contribute to prevent an impending famine.
I take up the statement of IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim of 26 February in which he expressed his grave concern about the spill over effects of the war in Ukraine on global shipping, and logistics and supply chains. He highlighted that shipping, particularly seafarers, cannot be collateral victims in a larger political and military crisis – they must be safe and secure. I can only agree with that.
Yours, Ian Beveridge