Maritime Security and Safety in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov

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Black Sea Grain Initiative 

The Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) Istanbul - comprising representatives of the Russian Federation, Türkiye, Ukraine and the United Nations - has been established to facilitate the implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative to establish a humanitarian maritime corridor to allow ships to export grain and related foodstuffs and fertilizers from Ukraine. (See links on the right for latest news)

IMO update 

The ongoing armed conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine presents a serious and immediate threat to the safety and security of crews and vessels operating in the region. IMO is continuing to liaise closely with all key stakeholders in the region to contribute to efforts to address the safety and security of seafarers and shipping. 

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim has established an Emergency Task Force to coordinate efforts to mitigate the security and safety risks to shipping, ports and seafarers.  A stranded ship reporting form has been introduced. Guidance and advice to keep Flag States appraised of the ongoing situation is updated when it becomes available.   

At the start of the conflict approximately 2000 seafarers were stranded aboard 94 vessels in Ukrainian ports. 10 vessels subsequently safely departed the Sea of Azov and at the end of July 84 merchant ships remained, with nearly 450 seafarers onboard. This number continues to steadily reduce. Many ships have employed local ship keepers to replace crew, and some ships have gone into cold lay-up, with no crew remaining onboard. In some situations, crew have chosen to remain onboard. This creates a complex and continually changing picture, made more complex by the challenges of communicating with ships in some locations. The first ship to depart under the Black Sea Grain Initiative left Odesa on 1 August 2022. 


IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim and Guy Ryder, Director-General, International Labour Organization (ILO), have jointly written to the heads of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF); and to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), to request urgent action wherever feasible to assist in the reprovisioning of the ships concerned with the vital supplies needed by their seafarers. The letters note that, as well as the dangers arising from bombardment, many of the ships concerned now lack food, fuel, fresh water, and other vital supplies. 

The IMO Secretariat continues to work with littoral states to encourage and improve regional information sharing and promulgation of information to shipping to aid the safety of navigation and security of shipping. 

With regards to humanitarian support for maritime personnel, the IMO Secretariat has been facilitating discussions with Ukrainian ports administrations, charities and the International Labour Organization (ILO) to support port workers and seafarers directly impacted by the crisis.   

Communications received from Member States and Associate Members

Communications from Member States and Associate Members are available on IMODOCS and are available publicly here

Official UN pages 

Black Sea Grain Initiative Joint Coordination Centre website here.

Website for the UN in Ukraine including relevant statements from the United Nations can be accessed here.

United Nations news page on Ukraine: Ukraine | | UN News / UN Ukraine Crisis Response.

IMO Meetings

Blue safe maritime corridor

The Council (C/ES.35) on 10 and 11 March agreed to encourage the establishment, as a provisional and urgent measure, of a blue safe maritime corridor to allow the safe evacuation of seafarers and ships from the high-risk and affected areas in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov to a safe place in order to protect the life of seafarers, and ensure the mobilization and commercial navigation of vessels intending to use this corridor by avoiding military attacks and protecting and securing the maritime domain. IMO's priority has been to support seafarers stranded in Ukraine. 

The establishment of the JCC in Istanbul has been welcomed by IMO

Advice for IMO Member States, seafarers and shipping 

IMO is issuing relevant circular letters (CL series 4524) to provide guidance for Member States, seafarers, shipping companies and other stakeholders. 

  • Circular Letter No.4611/Add.1 (30 August 2022) - Communication from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - Black Sea Grain Initiative - Procedures for Merchant Vessels - Updated (final version)

  • Circular Letter No.4611 (9 August 2022) - Communication from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - Black Sea Grain Initiative - (interim) Procedures for Merchant Vessels - please see Add.1 above 

  • Circular Letter No.4573 (24 May 2022) - Maritime security threat posed by free floating sea mines in the Black Sea Region

  • Circular Letter No.4524/Add.3 (28 March 2022) - Armed conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine – Information Reporting Form for Stranded Ships and advice and updates related to maritime security in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov  

  • Circular Letter No.4524/Add.2 (31 March 2022) - Ukraine crisis – Harmonization of PSC activities

  • Circular Letter No.4524/Add.1 (14 March 2022) - Ukraine crisis – Security situation in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov 

  • Circular Letter No.4524 (7 March 2022) Ukraine crisis – UNHCR Position on Returns to Ukraine

Flag State information

Contact details for individual maritime authorities by country can be located on the IMO Global Integrated Shipping Information System: Click here.

Information reporting form for ships stranded in Ukraine ports and waters

Please use the online form to submit information on ships stranded in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov. This information will be received by the IMO Secretariat Emergency Task Force. 

If you are unable to use the internet form, you can use the ownload form to submit information to IMO (please email etf@imo.org). 

Resources and support for seafarers

Seafarers impacted by the situation can request assistance from IMO's Seafarer Crisis Action Team (SCAT) by emailing info@imo.org

IMO Maritime Knowledge Centre page with information resources for and about seafarers: Click here.

Free, confidential, multilingual helpline for seafarers and their families operated by ISWAN: https://www.seafarerhelp.org/ [external site]

Seafarers International Relief Fund

The Seafarers International Relief Fund, a central charitable Fund to respond to emergencies affecting seafarers and their families, is now supporting seafarers and their families impacted by the humanitarian disaster caused by the crisis in Ukraine.

Please see The Seafarers International Relief Fund (theseafarerscharity.org) (donate now button on the page)

Media information

News items can be found at the IMO Media Centre.

Journalists and news agencies can contact media@imo.org.

Media contact for the JCC: In Istanbul: Ismini Palla (Ms), Media and Communications officer, Joint Coordination Centre, +962770996330, palla@un.org. 

External resources and information 

IMO is not responsible for the content in external websites

BIMCO: Ukraine - overview of content on BIMCO website

ICMA: Prayer for Peace – ICMA

International Chamber of Shipping: https://www.ics-shipping.org/press-release/russian-and-ukrainian-seafarers-make-up-14-5-of-global-shipping-workforce-according-to-ics/

Intertanko: https://www.intertanko.com/news-desk/newsdeskarticle/security-update-on-instability-in-the-northern-black-sea

Lloyd's Register: https://www.lr.org/en/who-we-are/flag-state-updates-ukraine/

NATO: https://shipping.nato.int/nsc/operations/news/-2022/risk-of-collateral-damage-in-the-north-western-black-sea-2 

NAVAREA III warnings in force: NAVAREA III warnings in force (defensa.gob.es)

UNCTAD: Maritme trade disrupted: The war in Ukraine and its effects on maritime trade logistics (June 2022)  

UNCTAD: The impact on trade and development of the war in Ukraine (March 2022) 

UK P&I Club: https://www.ukpandi.com/news-and-resources/russia-ukraine-crisis/