It has been almost a year since Russia invaded Ukraine last 2022. The ongoing conflict between the two countries has taken a devastating toll on merchant ships and seafarers in the region. Since the start of the Russian Invasion last February 20, 2022, there were already 15 merchant ships that have sank or been damaged.
These vessels were carrying essential goods and supplies and were manned by civilian seafarers. They were not part of the war but were caught in the crossfire. Unfortunately, the military activities from both sides not only damaged the ship and its cargo, but also put the lives of crew members at risk.
Here are the 24 merchant ships that were shelled or struck by missiles, leading to damage or loss, during the start of the Russia – Ukraine War.
1. SGV-Flot – Missile strike
This Russian civilian ore-bulk-oil carrier was struck by a missile from the Ukrainian military in the Sea of Azov on February 24, 2022. The 1981-built OBO vessel, which was carrying oil from Batumi to Yeysk, caught fire but was subsequently extinguished by the crew. Out of the two injured, one was in serious harm.
2. Yasa Jupiter – Missile strike
Yasa Jupiter is a Turkish-owned Panamax type bulk carrier sailing in the Black Sea near the port of Odessa. She was hit with a missile strike by Russian forces while sailing from Dnipro, Ukraine to Constanta, Romania.
Despite experiencing damage in its cargo hold area, the vessel managed to continue its voyage with all of its crew safe. As with the two incidents above, the event happened on February 24, 2022, two days after the start of the war.
3. Seraphim Sarovskiy – Missile strike
Struck by a missile together with SGV Flot in the Sea of Azov near Dolzhanskaya, four days after the Russian invasion. This 3,878 dwt general cargo vessel managed to continue her voyage after the incident. The ship is owned by Rechmortrans, a commercial freight water transport company based in Russia.
4. Millennial Spirit – Shelled
The Moldovan-flagged chemical tanker which is also known as Freyja was carrying 500 tons of diesel when it was shelled by Russia five days after the war broke out. Due to the ensuing panic and destroyed lifeboat, all the 10 crew jumped overboard, with two seriously injured.
Four months after this incident, the same vessel got hit again with another Russian missile strike.
5. Namura Queen – Shelled
A Japanese-owned cargo ship was shelled while heading to Ukraine’s Pivdennyi Seaport on the Black Sea coast, injuring one of its 20 Filipino crew members. The shipowner of the 85,000 dwt vessel, Nikko Kisen K.K, confirmed the incident.
There were reports of fire and visible damages in the superstructure. A nearby tugboat helped extinguish the flames.
6. Banglar Samriddhi – Shelled
A Bangladeshi third engineer was killed when a shell struck the bridge of the state-owned bulk carrier Banglar Samriddhi while docked at the Port of Olivia, Ukraine.
Due to the conflict, the shipowner, Bangladesh Shipping Corporation, decided to abandon the vessel and sent the remaining 28 unharmed seafarers back to their home country.
7. Helt – Struck a mine
The Estonian-owned general cargo vessel Helt sank 16 nm SE of Odessa after being struck by sea mines. All 6 crew members were safe and rescued. According to the Ukrainian navy, the 79-meter Panamanian-flagged ship was used by the Russian Black Sea Fleet as a human shield to cloak the movements of their vessels.
8. Lord Nelson – Missile strike
Lord Nelson is one of the three ships flying under the flag of Panama that became a casualty during this war. The other two are Helt and Namura Queen. The 28,653 dwt bulker sustained material damage, but still remained operational until this day. Nobody was hurt when she got hit by a Russian missile.
9. Azburg – Shelled
On April 3, 2022, a cargo ship flying under the Dominica flag sank after being targeted by Russian forces during the intense battle of Mariupol. The 9,085-ton, 130-meter vessel was moored alongside berth 16 when two shells hit the ship, causing fires in the engine room.
All crew evacuated to another nearby vessel, bringing one wounded seafarer with them.
10. Apache – Shelled
A Russian Black Sea Fleet patrol ship fired on the bulk carrier Apache, owned and managed by Turkish company Misha Shipping, as it was sailing towards Mariupol port in Ukraine. The firing was done to stop the vessel’s movement, due to a suspected military evacuation in the said port.
A direct hit from the artillery shell set the stern of the vessel on fire and caused it to go adrift. The crew then established contact with the border ships and confirmed their readiness to follow Russian orders.
11. Smarta – Shelled and captured
MV Smarta, a Liberian-flagged bulk carrier, arrived at the port of Mariupol to load steel cargo on February 21, 2022. It was soon caught in the middle of heavy fighting. On March 20, 2022, the ship was shelled, and its navigation bridge sustained severe damage, rendering it disabled.
The 19-member crew was forcibly removed by the Russian military and taken to Donetsk, and was released after a month in prison. They also captured the said vessel without compensating to the owners.
12. Tuzla – Missile strike
On January 25, 2022, the general cargo ship Tuzla was struck by a missile in the port of Kherson, Ukraine, causing a fire. The missile hit the bridge of the ship, according to video footage and shipping sources.
Tuzla, which is Turkish-owned and operates under the flag of Cook Islands, is 86.2 meters long with a beam of 14.03 meters. It is operated by Cayeli Shipping Ltd and has a gross tonnage of 2485 and deadweight of 3943.
13. Rusen Mete – Caught fire
On March 29th, the cargo ship Rusen Mete caught fire at the port of Berdyansk, Ukraine. The fire was reportedly a result of an explosion on the Russian landing ship Saratov on March 24th. The 1988-built, Sierra Leone-flagged Rusen Mete was owned by Ruby Navigation Corp and managed by RoyalMar Shipping & Ship Management Co of Istanbul, Turkey.
In July 2020, 19 crew members abandoned the ship without completing the unloading due to non-payment of their salaries for months.
14. Tzarevna – Shelled
The Tzarevna bulk carrier arrived in Mariupol, Ukraine to load steel plates from Metinvest’s Azovstal plant. However, the outbreak of war and the destruction of the plant caused the port to close, trapping 20 crew onboard for 9 months. During this time, the vessel was damaged from bombardment and the seafarers took shelter in the engine room. 15 crew members were repatriated, while 5 remained onboard.
After being released, the Tzarevna returned to the Black Sea port of Varna, Bulgaria. The Bulgarian captain reported that the crew experienced a war-like situation, with bombs falling near the ship and constant shooting in the port.
15. Brentix – Bombed
A Ukrainian product tanker, Brentix, was damaged by Russian forces in the Black Sea port of Ochakov on June 1st. The 3,200 DWT vessel, built in 1980, was without cargo and berthed at the grain and tanker terminal when it was hit by a single cluster munition causing damage to the hull, internal pipework, and equipment.
Luckily, the ship’s crew quickly extinguished the fire and there were no casualties.
Detained or Captured
These vessels and her crew experienced one of the worst parts of a seafarer’s career. Aside from them being damaged or destroyed, there were also hundreds of merchant ships unable to leave the ports in Ukraine or Russia due to the risk of getting bombarded.
Meanwhile, there were ships captured and forcibly taken by some parties without giving compensation to the owners. Some of the crew were repatriated, but it wasn’t an easy task. All known regulations in the book like SOLAS or ISPS were thrown out the window during this crisis.
May the winds be in your favor.
Some photos are taken from MarineTraffic.