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While all major Ukrainian ports are operating normally, ships destined for Ukraine’s Azov Sea ports may experience delays due to inspections carried out by the Russian authorities.

As tensions have escalated between Russia and the Ukraine following Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian naval vessels on 25 November 2018, Gard has been approached by shipowners and operators expressing concerns for the safety of ships and crew members visiting ports in the Azov Sea. In this alert, we summarise the most recent situation reports and advice provided by Gard’s local correspondents and contacts in the region.

We would, however, like to emphasise that the situation remains fluid and advice to ships calling at ports in the region may change at any time. Shipowners and operators are therefore advised to continuously evaluate the situation, carry out an assessment of the risks involved prior to entry, and take all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of the ship and crew. This includes making frequent checks with local sources of information, e.g. ship’s agent, port authorities, etc., to obtain the most up to date and reliable security information available at any given time.

According to information received from Gard’s correspondents, the situation in Ukraine ports and in the Kerch Strait as at 4 December 2018 is as follows:

  • On 28 November 2018, a 30-day period of Martial Law took effect in 10 of Ukraine’s 27 regions. The 10 regions are either bordering Russia or are located along the coast. A map of the affected regions can be found below. Ukrainian authorities may extend the period of Martial Law if necessary.

 

  • During the current period of Martial Law, special entry restrictions apply to Russian male citizens of up to 60 years of age who wishes to cross the border into the Ukraine. According to our correspondent, this does not mean that Russian men are prohibited from entering the Ukraine altogether, but rather that each individual person will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis prior to being permitted entry. Hence, although the implementation of Martial Law has not resulted in any formal restrictions being enforced on ships or seafarers visiting Ukrainian ports, the above entry restrictions may have a bearing also on Russian seafarers who wish to go ashore in a Ukrainian port. It is therefore recommended to carry out an assessment of the risks involved prior to granting shore leave or conducting crew changes in the Ukraine.

  • The Kerch Strait, the narrow stretch of water joining the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, is currently open for commercial vessels but with certain restrictions. All foreign vessels heading to Russian and Ukrainian ports on the Azov Sea are subject to inspections before passing the Kerch Strait and at the time of writing, ships destined for one of Ukraine’s Azov Sea ports, i.e. Mariupol or Berdyansk, are reportedly experiencing delays due to inspections carried out by the Russian authorities. Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea, such as Odessa and Yuzhny, are not affected by the restrictions.

 Members and clients trading to Ukraine and the Azov Sea should also be aware that ports in the region may raise their security levels at short notice and are advised to check with local agents and correspondents for the latest information.

As of today, the escalation of the conflict between the Ukraine and Russia has not resulted in any changes in the sanction regimes determined by the United Nations, the United States or the European Union against Russia as a result of the Crimea conflict and the conflict with Ukraine in general.

As to other operational aspects, please be aware that delay caused by the situation as outlined above, may be an issue between the owner and the charterer under the relevant charterparty. Members are encouraged to examine the terms of the relevant charterparty before the ship enters geographical areas affected by the conflict. Just as an introductory guidance the following high-level observations can be made:

  • If the ship is on voyage charter a question may arise as to calculation of laytime and demurrage. A key issue is whether the ship can be treated as having arrived at the relevant port or place and, thus, been entitled to tender a valid notice of readiness as an ‘arrived’ ship which may be required for the laytime/demurrage to start running under the charterparty.
  • If the ship is on time charter, the ship will normally, under standard terms, remain on hire as long as the ship in herself is fully efficient to perform he service require of her. Delays caused by external factors will usually not result in the ship being off hire.

As to insurance matters in general, there may be questions as to whether a claim has been caused by a ‘sea peril’ or ‘war peril’. As a starting point, claims arising out of incidents having occurred when ships are calling the relevant areas will be ordinary marine claims falling within the ordinary P&I and hull covers. The fact that Martial Law has been declared in certain areas in the Ukraine does not in itself make a change. On the other hand, if for example a merchant ship had been in direct contact with a navy ship while the latter was directly involved in the conflict, we may have been faced with a possible warlike situation. This must be considered on a case by case basis in each individual case.

 

We are grateful to Gard’s correspondents Legat Co. Ltd. and Pandi Services East Ltd., as well as to Dias Marine Consultancy, for their contribution to this alert.