Mariupol, Ukraine (PortSEurope) November 26, 2018 – After years of tension building up over Ukrainian ships navigating the Azov Sea, on November 25 Russia seized three small Ukrainian navy ships after opening fire against them, near the annexed, since 2014, Crimean peninsula, leading to an accusation by Ukraine that it is trying to blockade its Azov Sea ports.
The United Nations (UN) Security Council will discuss the crisis on November 26. Ukraine claims that Russia detains ships sailing to and from its ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk on the Azov Sea thus disrupting trade. Ukraine describes it as part of Russia’s hybrid war against it.
After incidents in 2003, Russia and Ukraine signed a treaty giving both countries the right to use the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait that connects it to the South with the Black Sea. Military vessels movement must be carried out with a prior notification, as Ukraine claims it has done for the three detained ships
Mariupol is used for exporting Ukraine’s top commodities – steel and grain and for importing coal, and will be particularly affected by the Russian actions.
Ukraine claims that trade to the ports has been reduced by 30% since Russia began creating problems to its ships. Exports from Mariupol have fallen 6% and imports by 9% so far in 2018. Exports from Berdyansk fell by 12.3%.
Ukraine also protests against the new €3 billion ($3.4 billion) bridge across the Kerch Strait which it considers as too low for large and high vessels to pass through. A total of 23% of the ships that have been entering the Azov Sea will not able to do so anymore due to the bridge, while Mariupol port can lose up to 43% of its annual cargo traffic, the Ukrainian government said. It claims that after the construction of the bridge only ships with a length of up to 160 m and draft of up to 8 m will be able to enter the Azov Sea.
Dozens of ships were anchored near the Kerch Strait as they waited for the standoff to be solved, marine traffic tracker website VesselFinder.com showed on November 25.
Mariupol port is located on the north-western coast of the Taganrog Bay. Its berthing line is 3.9 km long (22 berths), with depths down to 9.75 meters. The port is served by one port railway station. The total length of the railways of the port is 27.1 km. Highways are adjacent to the port. The cargo turnover of Mariupol seaport in 2016 was 7.6 million tons, while the port’s capacity is 18.8 million tons per year.
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