Russia-Ukraine naval clash followed by shipping holdups

Ships bound for Ukrainian ports have claimed that say they are being held up at the Kerch Strait, but those bound for Russian ports have been allowed go through, reports Reuters

Russia has asserted that it has reopened the channel to the Azov Sea and that any delays have not been out of the ordinary, but have been because of bad weather, a not uncommon occurrence.

Island Bay, which arrived at the strait the day before the events of November 25th between Russian and Ukrainian naval vessels, remained at anchor outside the strait, lashed by gale force winds and sleet, its hull icing over while more and more cargo ships were sitting on either side.

A week after the clash the Island Bay captain reported seeing 20 vessels awaiting clearance to cross. Reuters cited Refinitiv data, which showed 20 Ukraine-bound vessels held up at the strait since November 25th, although two others had been allowed through.

Island Bay’s planned cargo of 5,500 tonnes of wheat, destined for flour mills in Libya, remained stuck in the Ukrainian port of Berdyansk.

Although Russia blamed bad weather for the delay, last Sunday December 2nd, when the skies cleared, saw only a handful of ships passed through.

Since Russia and Ukraine clashed in the strait, Ukraine has introduced martial law in 10 regions, including the Azov Sea coast.

Some Ukrainian politicians have accused Moscow of trying to strangle Ukraine’s Azov Sea ports in preparation for an invasion from the east. This would be four years after Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Moscow denies any such plans and asserts that it has the right to patrol the strait.

Ukraine’s ports and vessels said that ships coming to pick up grain from the Russian side of the Azov Sea had been allowed through. Inspections have delayed travel by no more than two or three days.

Five of the 14 ships headed to the Ukrainian port of Mariupol, held up since the stand-off, were still waiting to cross on Wednesday December 5th, said Reuters citing Refinitiv data. One had turned back to Istanbul.

Of the ships aiming for one of Russian city Rostov-on-Don’s ports that had arrived to Kerch Strait since the stand-off began, not one was still waiting on December 5th for passage.

Only one out of the six boats headed to Berdyansk had crossed by Wednesday. Island Bay was still waiting outside Kerch Strait, 12 days after arriving.