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Ukraine crisis: woes for seafarers

Two weeks into the Russia-Ukraine crisis has put seafarers in a pickle, adding more to their plate from what they had experienced throughout the pandemic

When Russia announced its intentions to launch a full-scale attack on Odessa, the crucial port of Ukraine, there remains some 2,000 seafarers still stranded in Ukrainian waters. Since the start of the crisis, ports of Ukraine have closed and the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea have become danger zones. For vessels who try to venture out of the region, they risk facing being caught in the line of fire, being detained by the Russian navy or sailing into water mines.

Getting seafarers out of Ukraine a hurdle
So far, embassies and consulates have been working hard to get their seafaring citizens out of the conflict zone. However, there are many obstacles to doing so as seafarers stuck on vessels cannot get assurance of safety to shore due to the fighting and also because the waterways are controlled by Russia. So far, about 100 seafarers were able to reach Ukraine’s neighbouring country Moldova to get back to their home countries.

However, for Ukrainian and Russian seafarers, this crisis is more than just being able to get out and get home. For Ukrainian seafarers, going back means joining the war and not being able to leave the country until a firm resolution is forged. For Russian seafarers, not only do they have to worry about finding employment after getting back, they would also have to worry about how they would get paid, since Russia is now heavily sanction.

Secretary-general of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) Guy Platten has many questions, but no answers, “Because of this new crisis we’re having to repatriate seafarers. But where do we repatriate them to? Some don’t want to go home. Shipping is an industry interconnected like no other. We’re trying to help the crews to leave the ports. We’re using all diplomatic means, but at the moment it’s almost impossible.”

To attempt to address the situation, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) will be holding an extraordinary session of its council on 10 – 11 March 2022.

Foreign Policy


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