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Shipping groups urge UN to evacuate trapped seafarers in Ukraine

The International Chamber of Shipping and other organisations urge the UN to evacuate seafarers and ships trapped in Ukraine.

More than 30 shipping organisations and companies are calling on the United Nations to prioritise the release of seafarers and ships trapped in Ukraine, citing it as an “unacceptable risk to life.” 

Approximately 331 seafarers are still stranded on 62 ships that remain docked in Ukrainian ports, as the one-year mark of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine draws near.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), European Community Shipowners’ Association (ECSA), Bimco, and other shipowners are among the 32 signatories of an open letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, urging him to use his diplomatic influence to address the situation urgently.

The shipping organisations and companies recognize that there are challenges to evacuating seafarers and their ships, but say it must be a top priority. 

The letter sent to the UN pointed out that the UN’s involvement in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allowed safe passage of grain and fertiliser shipments from Ukraine, cannot come at the expense of innocent seafarers’ lives. The letter concludes by noting that the risk to seafarers’ lives is unacceptable and that action must be taken urgently.

Grain exports resumed after the bulk ships that had been held up in three Ukrainian ports were freed under the terms of the grain deal. More than 850 outbound journeys have been completed, despite ongoing complaints that Russia is stonewalling the effort by slowing the inspections and complaining about the terms of the agreement. 

Ukrainian grain exports have dropped by nearly a third, but the UN estimates that around 22 million tonnes have left the country under the programme since it began in August 2022.

The International Chamber of Shipping reports that the number of ships in Ukrainian ports stood at 112 crewed by more than 2,000 seafarers when the ports were closed after Russia’s invasion.

The shipping industry has worked to provide seafarers with provisions such as food, clean water, and medical supplies and has facilitated evacuations wherever possible. Many of the companies were able to bring out most of their crews, leaving only reduced crews or none aboard their ships.

The shipping industry organisations are calling for all other vessels and the remaining seafarers aboard those ships in Ukraine to gain safe passage. 

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