An Estonian-owned cargo ship on Thursday sank in Ukraine’s major Black Sea port of Odessa, merely hours after a Bangladeshi vessel was hit down by a missile or bomb at a port east of Odessa, underlining the growing peril to merchant shipping after Russia invades Ukraine.
Several shipping lines are suspending their journeys to Black Sea ports and other terminals in Ukraine amid soaring recent insurance premiums for such voyages.
Ever since Feb 24, at least three commercial ships have been hit separately by projectiles.
Viktor Vyshnov, deputy head of Ukraine’s Maritime Administration, said six crew members from the Marshall Islands-flagged Helt were picked up by Ukraine’s rescue service and taken to a hospital in nearby Chernomorsk after floating in cold water for many hours, but he had no further details.
Confirming the rescue Igor Ilves, managing director of the Helt’s Tallinn-based manager Vista Shipping Agency told Reuters that earlier two of the crew were in a life raft at sea, with four others unaccounted for at the time. He said the crew comprised four Ukrainian nationals, a Russian and a Belarusian.
“The vessel has finally sunk,” Ilves said, adding it might have struck a mine.
There were no claims of responsibility for either event.
Earlier on Wednesday, NATO’s Shipping Center warned of “a high risk of collateral damage on civilian shipping in the northwestern part of the Black Sea”, which included mines.
“There are several open-source reports of civilian ships being hit directly or indirectly as a result of the acts of war in the northwestern Black Sea within Ukrainian territorial waters and adjacent international waters,” NATO said.
“Civilian shipping is encouraged to exercise caution and be on high alert in the area.”
Later that day, a missile or bomb struck a Bangladeshi-owned cargo ship in the Black Sea port of Olvia and killed one of its crew members. Efforts were underway to rescue the others from the vessel, its owner said on Thursday.
“The ship came under attack and one engineer was killed,” Pijush Dutta, executive director of Bangladesh Shipping Corp, told Reuters. “It was not clear whether it was a bomb or missile or which side launched the attack. The other 28 crew are unharmed,” he said, without providing further details.
As per reports, the crew was evacuated by tugboat to a shelter in Olvia.
In Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh the Russian Embassy issues a statement in the English language that the circumstances of the incident were “being established”.
“We express deep condolences to the near and dear ones of the deceased. The Russian side bends every effort to ensure the safe departure of the Bangladeshi ship from the port,” it said.
Some videos surfacing on social media showed crew members asking for help after the ship was hit.
In one such video, the vessel’s second engineer said the ship had been hit by a rocket, killing a crewmate.