Ukrainian naval forces open the corridor for ships in the Black Sea

10 Aug 2023 | Masha Belikova

Ukrainian naval forces have announced that they have opened temporary humanitarian corridors for commercial vessels operating in the Black Sea in an official statement from the country's military forces released on Thursday.

The corridor had been declared open for commercial vessels to enter and leave Ukrainian Black Sea ports, but the statement warned that there remain risks of military threat and danger of naval mines from Russian naval activity.

The note also said that vessels will be allowed to use the corridors only if their owners or captains officially confirm their willingness to ship in the current conditions, or are prepared to accept the risk.

Ukraine has already offered such routes for shipments out of the Black Sea to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), and the organization has recognized Ukraine’s right to continue free commercial navigation, as guaranteed by international maritime law, accoding to the statement.

It was also said that the corridor will be primarily used for the vessels that have been stuck in Ukrainian ports after the full-scale war started on February 24, 2022, as previously the Black Sea corridor was only used for ships carrying agricultural products.

The trade has taken this announcement with a degree of skepticism, as the primary concern remains the same - who will provide insurance for such shipments in the situation when Russia does not appear to have been involved in drafting the note and continues to refuse to guarantee the safety of this route?

“I want to see who will dare to call Ukraine, like some owners refuse to call Russia now. They (naval forces) can make these announcements, but the important point is if insurance will allow it,” a freight broker told Agricensus.

“I imagine people will be cautious about this. It's a good step but if it doesn't eliminate the risk, people will probably approach on a 'wait and see' basis. THat is, they will wait for somebody else to go first,” a freight analyst said.

Earlier last month, Ukrainian officials said that they had made available an insurance fund with up to UAH20 billion (around $544 million) that the country has to cover any potential damage for such shipments.

It was also said that the decision whether to cover or not any damage will be analyzed and taken by the Ukrainian government, and as such it was not fully clear how it will be working.

That lack of clarity meant that many trade sources did not take the proposal too seriously.

“If we talk about the insurance fund, then individual charterers are ready to cover the entire vessel and pre-pay the freight just to make the vessel come. There are already mechanics from charterers, but not from the state, which is for now only words without anything concrete,” a second freight broker said.

He also added that a strict agreement was needed to make it work, but is absent for now.

“Even this does not eliminate the insured event, the probability of which is very high. Until Russia agrees to some kind of deal, the owners will not be sure of their safety,” he also said.

Russia has withdrawn from the Black Sea deal initiative on July 17, 2023, which stopped commercial navigation for the Ukrainian Black Sea ports, as owners were no longer prepared to risk entering the region without Russian guarantees, especially just after the stoppage of the deal Odesa region, along with ports, have been massively attacked during few consecutive days.