Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Ukrainian Shipping Policy All at Sea as IMO and Government Help Requested

Captain Pleads for More Aid as Maritime Sanctions Start to Hit Home
Shipping News Feature

UKRAINE – WORLDWIDE – In a video to the world when, clearly holding back his emotions, captain Oleksiy Luchyno appealed for more support for his country in the fight against Russian invaders, he speaks of his children hiding in basements. He also sums up the conundrum of this war for seafarers after refusing to take his vessel to its scheduled next port of call – in Russia.

The captain perfectly illustrated the difficulties of those caught up in what is potentially the most dangerous situation the western world has faced in almost a century. He explains how he has refused to obey instructions and clearly does not know what the operator of his bulk tanker will do next, will they back him or sack him. He says:

“We receive letters of support from our ship owners, but I think that this is categorically not enough; I would even call it absolute inaction. I request you all to help my state financially. For us, sailors, men, fathers working far at sea, it is terrible to realise that we cannot help our country in any way. We have shown our reliability, professionalism and stability. And in this most hardest time we continue to fulfil our duties, following all international maritime rules and laws. While we continue to work, our families are being attacked. Our children are hiding in basements.”

The circumstances of individual vessels, whether Ukrainian, Russian or simply crewed by one or both nationalities make for a difficult mix. A tanker, the NS Champion belonging to the principally state owned Sovcomflot shipping group was scheduled to call at the Flotta oil terminal in Orkney to collect crude oil, a situation the local council said it was powerless to prevent despite a huge groundswell of objections from local residents.

After days of wrangling and public demonstrations, whilst local officials insisted they had no powers to prevent the ship docking, came a letter from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps stating legislation would shortly be forthcoming but, in the instant, no access was to be allowed for any Russian flagged, registered, owned, controlled, chartered or operated vessels.

Meanwhile, whilst we reported that Maersk had acted to protect its Ukrainian staff and would suspend operations, then followed a host of other such suspensions including Chinese owned Cosco Shipping , with vessels en route diverted elsewhere as Russian naval vessels patrolled the Black and Azov Seas, reportedly firing on the occasional ship passing, with incidents we have previously reported.

In French waters we had a demonstration of how sanctions are being imposed when the Baltic Leader a car transporter headed for St Petersburg with a full complement of vehicles was stopped by the authorities who strongly suspect it is ‘linked to Russian interests targeted by sanctions’. The information apparently came from US Treasury officials enforcing sanctions against a subsidiary of the Russian Promsvyazbank.

The bank’s CEO, Pyotr Fradkov, is the son of Mikhail Fradkov, a former head of Russia's foreign intelligence service and ex prime minister under Putin, is also personally sanctioned by the Americans and the European Union according to reports. Promsvyazbank itself stands accused of financing Russian ‘defence and related materiel and financial service sectors’ of the Russian economy.

The bank said it had previously had interests in the Baltic Leader but had sold these prior to the imposition of sanctions and that the Russian embassy in France was pursuing her release from the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer where she was being held. Meanwhile reports came in that Russia had captured two more Ukrainian cargo ships, bulk carrier Princess Nicole and the tanker Athena, near Zmiiny (Snake) Island where 13 Ukrainian troops were killed days earlier, and diverted them to occupied Crimea.

Sanctions however are likely to hit other seagoing craft besides merchant shipping. The joint proclamations of sanctions last Saturday from US, UK, Canada and Europe declared, ‘We commit to launching this coming week a transatlantic task force that will ensure the effective implementation of our financial sanctions by identifying and freezing the assets of sanctioned individuals and companies that exist within our jurisdictions’. And foremost and most recognisable amongst these are the so called ‘superyachts’.

Texas Republican Rep. Lance Gooden leapt on these proposals by his Democrat opponents with almost unseemly delight saying he would process legislation to enact Article 1 in the Constitution, as used in WW1 to seize property (but never since) saying, ‘Putin and his inner circle still have yachts and planes sitting in harbours and airports all over the world’.

Photo: Whilst the seized Baltic Leader sat forlornly at the Boulogne sur Mer quayside, captain Oleksiy Luchyno appealed to the world.