Two Ukrainian merchant ships captured in Black Sea

Following the Russian detention of Ukrainian rescue tug Sapfir (IMO 8728531) on Friday February 25th while it was en route to Zemelniy (Snake) Island off south-western Ukraine on a search and rescue mission for possible survivors on the island, another ship – bulk carrier Princess Nicole (IMO 8319392) – appeared to have been seized by Russian forces over the weekend, according to the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service. Additionally, the Ukraine-flagged bulk carrier Afina (IMO 8029272) was also diverted to the Russian-controlled port of Sevastopol in the Crimea.

Their AIS tracks became erratic, then ceased transmission at about 02:00 GMT on Saturday, according to tracking provided by Pole Star. When transmissions resumed at 12:00 on Sunday they were stationary in Russian-controlled waters off the coast of Sevastopol. As of Sunday evening, Princess Nicole was broadcasting “not under command.”

The Ukrainian State Border Guard Service confirmed the seizure of the two vessels on Sunday. “Russian military ships once again dared to violate the rules of international maritime law, under the cover of a self-proclaimed counter-terrorist operation carried out a pirate capture of two ships under the Ukrainian flag with almost 50 peaceful crew members.”

On Friday, according to the service, the same task force of Russian Navy warships captured the Ukrainian rescue vessel Sapfir. The rescue tug was under way for Snake Island on a search and recovery mission. Its crew had been tasked to search the island for the remains of its former garrison and determine if there were any survivors; while en route, they diverted to assist a merchant vessel that had come under attack by Russian forces. They lost contact shortly after, and the border service later confirmed that the Sapfir had been seized.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian soldiers/sailors/guards (reports vary) who were reportedly attacked on Zmiinyi (Snake) island were still alive, according to a statement posted on Facebook by Ukraine’s naval services.

“We are very happy to learn that our brothers are alive and well,” the statement said, claiming that the sailors had twice turned back the attacks of the Russian invaders. However, they could no longer continue to protect the island and would withdraw, the statement continued.

Connection with the island was completely cut off and attempts to reach the sailors failed after Russian armed forces destroyed its infrastructure, the navy said.

1984-built, Ukraine-flagged, 16,861 gt Princess Nicole is owned by Talliar Ltd care of manager Roadstead Terminal Concord of Ukraine.

1983-built, Ukraine-flagged, 21,268 gt Afina is owned by Glorion SA care of Craneship LLC of Krasnodarskiy Kray, Russia. It is managed by Transship Ltd of Odessa, Ukraine. It is entered with Thomas Miller Specialty on behalf of Transship GmbH (off risk date, July 12th 2022).

1988-built, Ukraine-flagged, 1,178 gt Sapfir is owned and managed by Marine Search & Rescue Service, Odessa, Ukraine.

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