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by Captain John Konrad (gCaptain) Yesterday NATO’s Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM) issued an urgent warning to ships operating in the Black Sea. The warning said the risk of Russia directly attacking commercial shipping, and damage from collateral damage is “considered VERY HIGH.” In the same statement, NATO warned of a Russian ‘Naval Exercise Area’ around the approaches to Novorossiysk, Russia’s largest port and a critical oil hub for the country.
On Wednesday the publication upstream reported that President Biden had excluded the Chevron-led (NYSE: CVX) Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) from its ban on Russian oil and gas imports in an attempt to leave open the export route via Russia’s Black Sea coast. On the same day, gCaptain had also reported that at least one publically listed tanker company, Frontline (NYSE: FRO), had a ship loaded with chemicals departing the port.
“The risk of collateral damage or direct hits on Civilian Shipping in the North Western Black Sea area are considered VERY HIGH,” said NATO. “There are strong indicators that the intensity of military operations along the Ukrainian Black Sea coastline and in the Gulf of Odessa are increasing. The risk of GPS jamming, AIS spoofing, communications jamming, electronic interference, and cyber-attacks in the area is considered high. Harassment and diversion of shipping in the area cannot be excluded.”
Novorossiysk is a critical oil export hub and the terminus for CPC pipeline from Kazakhstan. According to the official CPC website the port shipped a record of 43 million barrels of crude in the month of February alone. The port also contains chemical export docks, a large timber export facility, containers, and can process grain. Novorossiysk is home to Russia’s Maritime Academy and it’s a road and rail hub that connects to all the main industrial and population centers of Russia.
Novorossiysk is less than 60 nautical miles from Crimea and the Kerch Strait. It is roughly 150 nautical miles by air to the highly contested port of Mariupol.
This action by NATO could cripple one of Russia’s most important cities but, the warning does not include the port itself. Ships can sail approximately 100 nautical miles south by southeast from the port then turn towards the Bosphorus without entering the NAVAREA warning.
While ships may be able to avoid NATO warnings they will likely not be able to avoid exorbitant insurance rates.
Warnings and threats of higher rates have not stopped all ships. According to Marine Traffic, there are currently 120 vessels of all sizes in the port of Novorossiysk, 97 of which are Russian flagged. 20 tankers are in port including the NATO member flagged crude oil tanker Minerva Symphony and non-NATO flagged tankers from Malta (4), Panama, and Liberia.
According to Equasis the tanker Minerva Symphony is Greek owned, Greek Flagged, UK Insured, and is inspected by an American Non-Profit.
The Panamanian tanker, DUKE 1, is Isreali owned, and is inspected by an American Non-Profit.
The Liberian flagged tanker LIGOVSKY PROSPECT is Russian owned, UK Insured, and is inspected by an American Non-Profit.
The Malta flagged tanker SEASALVIA is Greek owned, and is inspected by an American Non-Profit.
The Malta flagged tanker SEAJEWEL is Liberian owned, UK Insured, and is inspected by an Italian Non-Profit.
The Malta flagged tanker GEA is Greek owned, and is inspected by an American Non-Profit.
The Malta flagged tanker PRIDE is Turkish owned, UK Insured and is inspected by UK Non-Profit.
Despite having earned a USCG Unlimited Master’s license to captain ships of any size and, despite experience navigating ships around the world, this article took me hours of research and fact-checking. The NATO release is confusing for several reasons:
Even more ridiculous is the fact they are issuing a stern warning about a highly belligerent Navy that’s already shot at unarmed ships, used unarmed ships as human shields, killed mariners, and continuously lies to NATO about nearly everything… but one of the warning messages says the warning is in effect “DAILY EXCEPT SUNDAYS“.
Why NATO, do you think Russia could endanger commercial ships sailing in NAVAREA III 0096/22 on every day of the week Except Sundays?
The fog of war is bad enough without such confusing messages from NATO, equally problematic messages from the US Maritime Administration (MARAD), and near radio silence from the US Navy. We owe at least that much to the innocent seafarers currently working in the Black Sea.
For live updates on this crisis Follow Captain John Konrad on Twitter
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