The near month-long Russian invasion of Ukraine has recorded enormous maritime infrastructure damage, which will take years to fix.
The battle for the southern port city of Mariupol has intensified in the past 48 hours with street-by-street warfare being reported across the downtown area with many casualties and the city in ruins.
The Russians are close to taking control of Mariupol and with it key sea access as they try to build a land bridge from Russia to the Crimea. They already control the port of Berdyansk, some 30 km to the southwest on the Sea of Azov, where five foreign-flagged bulk carriers laden with grain have been moved out of the port by Russian tugs in recent days, making way for naval ships to enter.
At Odessa, locals continue to prepare the city, home to Ukraine’s largest port, for any naval assault.
In the first month of the war, five merchant ships have been reported hit by artillery with one seafarer losing his life.
With increasing sanctions in place and many mines planted in the area, sea traffic in the Black Sea has dropped considerably, most notably for containerships (see chart at the bottom of this article).
The container shipping aspect of the Ukraine invasion is also having to factor in the sudden drop in boxes moving by rail from Asia to Europe via Russia. Bloomberg is reporting that more than a million containers originally earmarked for transcontinental train transit are now having to find new routes by sea.
“Capacity taken up by growing congestion at European hubs and rail to ocean conversions caused by the war have not stopped the rate slide,” commented Judah Levine, head of research at Freightos, discussing Asia-Europe container freight rates, which are now at their lowest levels since last July.
More than a million containers originally earmarked for transcontinental train transit are now having to find new routes by sea
The trade blockade movement against Russia is growing. Lithuania has said it is ready to close its seaport of Klaipėda to Russian ships, but it is still coordinating the move with neighbouring countries.
Ideally, it should be an EU-wide decision that would eliminate “all possibilities of arbitration” prime minister Ingrida Šimonytė said yesterday.
Transport ministers from Lithuania and other neighbouring countries are planning to turn to the European Commission over the issue, according to Šimonytė.
“If there is no decision, no clearer movement, I think we will continue to coordinate this among us,” she added.
Over the weekend, Mateusz Morawiecki, the prime minister of Poland since 2017, urged tougher sanctions on Moscow and called on the European Union to impose a total ban on trade with Russia.
“Poland is proposing to add a trade blockade to this package of sanctions as soon as possible, both for seaports – a ban on entering Russian-flagged ships with Russian goods – but also a ban on land trade,” Morawiecki told a press conference.
After coming under much pressure, France’s TotalEnergies finally relented yesterday, joining the likes of bp, Shell and Equinor in cutting ties with Russia. TotalEnergies said yesterday it had initiated the gradual suspension of its activities in Russia, putting on hold its business developments for batteries and lubricants in Russia and providing no further capital for the development of projects in Russia including the Arctic LNG 2 project.