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Under attack and low on supplies, 1,500 seafarers trapped in Ukrainian waters

Relief efforts ‘extremely challenging’ for those stuck on 140 vessels in conflict zone

The Azburg was sank by two Russian missiles. (Photo: Shutterstock)

The Dominica-flagged cargo ship Azburg that sank in the port city of Mariupol after being hit by two Russian missiles Tuesday is an example of the growing humanitarian crisis facing some 1,500 seafarers on vessels trapped in Ukrainian waters.

In an interview with American Shipper, Natalie Shaw, head of employment for the International Chamber of Shipping, noted that people representing 20 nationalities are stuck on approximately 140 vessels in the conflict zone. These men and women, she says, have little to no accessibility to replenishments of food, water, fuel and medical supplies.

“Delivering relief is proving extremely challenging.” Shaw says. “For some seafarers, supplies are running out. Some are nearing or are at the end of their onboard supply.”

Shaw said the vessels have limited amounts of provisions and basic necessities, such as washing powder, toothpaste and soap.

“There is an urgent need to replenish these provisions across the stuck vessels,” she adds.

Two seafarers killed

According to shipping officials, two seafarers have been killed and five merchant vessels have been hit since Russia’s attack on Ukraine. 

Asked if evacuating the seafarers was possible, Shaw notes: “We are supporting efforts to finding a solution and are looking at a range of options, but as the war persists these are harder and harder to realize. At this time, the seafarers are safest remaining sheltered on their ships.”

Shaw says carriers are very concerned for the seafarers.

“Vessels stuck in the affected areas continue to be vulnerable,” she stresses. “The International Chamber of Shipping, alongside other international shipping organizations, are working closely with U.N. agencies to support the seafarers and the efforts to relieve them. 

“We’ve already seen the tragic consequences of vessels and seafarers being caught up in the conflict.”

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Lori Ann LaRocco

Lori Ann LaRocco is senior editor of guests for CNBC business news. She coordinates high profile interviews and special multi-million dollar on-location productions for all shows on the network. Her specialty is in politics, working with titans of industry. LaRocco is the author of: “Trade War: Containers Don’t Lie, Navigating the Bluster” (Marine Money Inc., 2019) “Dynasties of the Sea: The Untold Stories of the Postwar Shipping Pioneers” (Marine Money Inc., 2018), “Opportunity Knocking” (Agate Publishing, 2014), “Dynasties of the Sea: The Ships and Entrepreneurs Who Ushered in the Era of Free Trade” (Marine Money, 2012), and “Thriving in the New Economy: Lessons from Today’s Top Business Minds” (Wiley, 2010).