Illegal Visits to Crimean Ports by Foreign Merchant Ships (Except Russian Ones) in 2020


The Monitoring Group of the Black Sea Institute of Strategic Studies and BlackSeaNews

Translated from Ukrainian by HANNA KLYMENKO

According to the monitoring, which has been conducted by the authors since the first days of the occupation of Crimea, in 2014-2020, significant changes took place in sea cargo links with ports of the Crimean peninsula as a result of international sanctions.

Over the 7 years of the occupation, the Monitoring Group of the Black Sea Institute of Strategic Studies and the editorial team has "blacklisted" 143 vessels belonging to shipowners from 15 countries (except the RF) for entering the closed ports of the occupied Crimean peninsula.

The statistics for calls of foreign vessels, except the RF's ones, at the ports of the Crimean peninsula for 2020 are based on the monitoring data of the two independent groups, the editorial team and the SeaKrime Group of the Myrotvorets Center ( seakrime). The authors express their gratitude and appreciation to the colleagues for the opportunity to verify the data and to be sure of the fact that the sanctions were indeed violated.

The trend in the number of sea-going vessels violating Crimean sanctions (except the RF). Chart 1

While in 2014, the first year of the occupation of Crimea and the year of the imposition of sanctions, 85 vessels violated them, later the number of violators declined annually, and in 2020, there were only 11 such vessels, i.e. their number had decreased eightfold (See Table 1, Chart 1).

In 2020, only 11 foreign vessels (except the RF's ones) entered Crimean ports in violation of sanctions; in 2014, the first year of the occupation, there were 85 such vessels... The maritime traffic has come to an almost complete halt.

This is the effect of the sanctions regime, the constant monitoring of its violations, and the reluctance of shipowners to be on public sanctions lists. This process has been significantly influenced by the Ukrainian law enforcement agencies' willingness to arrest ships and prosecute shipowners, as demonstrated by some examples, as well as by the ongoing work of the Ukrainian diplomacy, civil society, and media in the respective shipowners' countries of registration.

The dramatic decrease in the number of violators has been caused primarily by the fact that vessels belonging to shipowners from Greece stopped entering Crimean ports in 2015, from Turkey and Romania – in 2019. In previous years, the vessels belonging to shipowners from these countries accounted for the largest number of violators.

In 2014, the flags of 32 countries, except Russia, were seen in Crimean ports, in 2017 – 14, in 2018 – 7, in 2020 – of 5 countries. This is a cumulative effect of international sanctions – the sea blockade around occupied Crimea is tightening.

In 2020, the vast majority of remaining violators (7 out of 11) were vessels belonging to shipowners from the Middle East countries – Lebanon, Syria and Egypt.

For reference. A shipowner's country of registration and a ship's flag state are not always the same thing.

For example, most vessels violating sanctions that belong to shipowners from Greece, Turkey, and Romania, are registered under "flags of convenience" – mainly those of African countries or exotic islands, where registration requirements for the technical condition of vessels are less stringent and the cost of the procedure is lower.

As early as the first years of the occupation, the EU and NATO member states' flags disappeared from the ports of Crimea. They were last seen on 18 March 2017 in Kerch on the mast of the Bulgarian gas tanker BRIZ (IMO: 8899720), which was transporting liquefied gas to Bulgaria.

The flags of Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Italy, Portugal, and Malta had disappeared from Crimean ports much earlier: the flag of Greece was last seen in Crimea on 27 July 2015, of Turkey – on 6 April 2015, of Cyprus – on 26 March 2015, the flag of Italy – on 5 October 2014, of Portugal – on 17 September 2014, of Malta – on 19 August 2014.

Other EU and NATO member states have escaped this precarious fate. Of course, this is not always the case with the ownership of vessels violating sanctions.

Moreover, the flags respected in the maritime world – those of Panama, Singapore, Liberiahave completely or almost completely disappeared from Crimean ports. The decrease in the number of vessels violating Crimean sanctions in 2017-2020 was caused to a large extent by the activity of the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which operates within the Embassy of Ukraine in the United Kingdom.

Based on the up-to-date information from the Ukrainian monitoring groups, the Mission of Ukraine to the IMO provided the maritime registration authorities of the respective countries with regular information on violations of Crimean sanctions by vessels registered under the flags of these countries (see Table 2).

As of 1 March 2020, maritime administrations had revoked the registration of vessels violating Crimean sanctions: Tanzania – 12 vessels, Togo – 11, Mongolia and Comoros – 6 vessels each, Sierra Leone – 5, Cameroon – 4, Panama – 3, Palau – 2, Lebanon – 2, Belize and Bolivia – 1 vessel each.

As a result of appeals from the Mission of Ukraine to the IMO, from mid-2017 to February 2020, 53 decisions were made to revoke the registration of vessels violating Crimean sanctions: 13 decisions – in 2017, 18 – in 2018, 16 – in 2019, and 6 – in January-February 2020 (See Table 3).

These decisions were taken in 11 countries and concerned 35 vessels violating sanctions: 20 such vessels had their registration revoked once; 13 vessels – twice; 1 vessel – three times, and 1 vessel – four times.

For example, one of the "champions", the JAWDAT M dry cargo ship (renamed ANTALYA on 1 October 2018), IMO 7615232, was stripped of the Tanzanian flag on 27 December 2017, the Palauan flag – on 31 August 2018, the Togolese flag – on 1 July 2019, and finally of the Cameroonian flag – on 28 February 2020 (see the photo on the right below).

Another "blacklist champion", the RAMZI dry cargo ship (renamed RANI on 1 September 2018), IMO 7700207, was stripped of its flags for entering ports of the occupied Crimean peninsula: on 13 July 2018 – of the Togolese flag under the name RAMZI, on 25 July 2019 – of the Togolese flag under the name RANI, on 3 October 2019 – of the Lebanese flag (see the photo on the left below).

Of course, as the foreign merchant fleet is leaving the ports of the occupied peninsula, it can only be replaced with ships sailing under the flag of the RF. However, this fleet has become unnecessary even for transportaon from the RF since the bridge across the Kerch Strait can be used for freight traffic.

The impossibility of legal maritime export and import due to sanctions has rendered the whole port industry of occupied Crimea unnecessary for the economy.



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The Crimean Library section on the website has been created with the support of the European Program of the International Renaissance Foundation. The views of the authors do not necessarily reflect the position of the International Renaissance Foundation