Maritime Security and Safety in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov
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 (BSGI) to establish a humanitarian maritime corridor to allow ships to export grain and related foodstuffs and fertilizers from Ukraine. (See links on the right of this page for BSGI latest news).
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, 2022, 84 merchant ships remained, with nearly 450 seafarers onboard. This number continues to steadily reduce. Many ships employed local ship keepers to replace crew, and some ships went into cold lay-up, with no crew remaining onboard. In some situations, crew chose to remain onboard.
The first ship to depart under the Black Sea Grain Initiative left Odesa on 1 August 2022. (See links on the right of this page for BSGI latest news).
Today (early 2023), over 60 merchant vessels, unable to participate in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, remain stranded across the ports of Ukraine. In November 2022, the IMO Council took the decision “encouraging the IMO Secretary-General to continue work on humanitarian efforts to evacuate all stranded ships and seafarers in the conflict area”. The challenge of releasing the 60+ remains ships persists. The IMO Secretary General is actively pursuing all avenues to develop, negotiate and facilitate the safe departure of these vessels. This situation remains a significant challenge and the IMO Secretariat remains focussed on making every effort to facilitate and support the departure of these vessels.
IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim and Guy Ryder, Director-General, International
Labour Organization (ILO), jointly wrote in 2022 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: https://news.un.org/en/focus/ukraine
- Maritime Safety Commitee (MSC 106), 2-11 November 2022: update on the latest developments regarding the successful operation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
- Council 128th session, 28 November-2 December 2022 (C128): update on the current situation, encouraged the Secretary-General to continue to work on humanitarian efforts to evacuate all stranded ships and seafarers in the conflict area, including efforts to expand the Black Sea Grain Initiative to other types of ships and additional ports.
- Maritime Safety Commitee (MSC 105), 20-29 April 2022: MSC Resolution: Actions to facilitate seafarer evacuation
- Legal Committee (LEG 109), 21-25 March 2022: Guidance on the impact of the situation in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov on insurance or other financial security certificates.
- Council Extraordinary Session (C ES 35), 10-11 March 2022: Download Council decisions on Black Sea and Sea of Azov.
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 download form to submit information to IMO (please email firstname.lastname@example.org).
Resources and support for seafarers
Seafarers impacted by the situation can request assistance from IMO's Seafarer Crisis Action Team (SCAT) by emailing email@example.com.
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).
News items can be found at the IMO Media Centre.
Journalists and news agencies can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Media contact for the JCC in Istanbul: Ms. Ismini Palla, Media and Communications officer, Joint Coordination Centre, +962770996330, email@example.com.
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/
Lloyd's Register: https://www.lr.org/en/who-we-are/flag-state-updates-ukraine/
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/