Ukraine’s Secret Weapon: Seafarers

Ukraine’s Secret Weapon: Seafarers

John Konrad
Total Views: 18745
February 27, 2022

Editors’ Note: According to the 9/11 commission report, the United States and its allies suffered from a failure imagination prior to the attacks. This article was not written to incite action but to spark dialogue among stakeholders, close the imagination gap, and highlight the importance of Ukraine to the world economy.

by Captain John Konrad (gCaptain) There is a Ukrainian seafarer in nearly every major port in the world today. In the midst of violent attacks on Ukraine, the country’s most powerful asset regarding global seapower, naval intelligence, and economic sanctions goes almost unnoticed: Ukraine’s Merchant Mariners.

The largest pool of seafarers in the world is Eastern Europe. Russian and Ukrainian seafarers together make up 14.5% of the world fleet. Ukrainian ship officers specifically are among the best trained and highly educated in the globe. These are critical facts in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The most critical fact, however, is that Ukrainians serve aboard many of the 2,873 ships of the Russian Merchant Fleet.

Today Ukrainian sailors around the world are an absolutely integral pin in the wheel of world trade. Ships under the command of Ukrainian captains continue to sail safely and efficiently despite the harrowing conditions their families endure at home.

Captain Luchyno

As a licensed ship captain and father the following video put me in tears. The video is by Oleksiy Luchyno, a proud Ukraine sailor and Captain of a large merchant ship. It desribes the single greatest fear of any sailor who is the parent of small children: being stuck at sea while your children are in grave danger.

“15% of the world’s officers are Ukrainian sailors.” said Captain Oleksiy Luchyno in an emotional cry for help. “While we continue our work, our families are being shelled, our children are hiding in basements. We receive letters of support, but this is not enough. I would even call it absolute inaction. I ask you all to support Ukraine! Create funds to help the army and funds to support and restore Ukraine. I believe in our country and the army. Glory to Ukraine!”

Captain Luchyno promises to sail safely through piracy-infested waters in order to bring crucial goods to the world market and all he asks for in return is a small donation to support the army of Ukraine. It’s a minuscule request considering the power and responsibility Captain Luchyno holds because he – along with his fellow Ukrainian Captains – is an irreplaceable component of world trade. 

What If

Sailors from Ukraine are respected professionals but history shows that even the kindest, gentlest people in the world fight back if their families are threatened. How could Ukrainian sailors fight back? What if Ukrainians working aboard Russian ships or carrying Russian cargo anchored their vessels in protest? What if they can’t work because Russian companies they work for can’t process SWIFT payments.

Or worse. What if they scuttled Russian ships or were deputized by Ukraine to turn their ships into privateers? What if they refused to leave congested docks in ports like Los Angeles until US Navy ships entered the Black Sea to protect commercial ships from Russian attack? What if they anchored in the Suez Canal until the Bosphorus was closed to Russian ships transporting ammunition, gasoline, and supplies into southern Ukraine? Or what if Ukraine’s 76,442 seafarers around the world went on strike tomorrow? 

Worst Case Scenario – Ever Given On Steriods

Last year the Ever Given grounded in the Suez Canal crippling world trade. Today the shock waves of that grounding are still being felt as port congestion worsens around the globe. Right now Uklrainian sailors could easily block not just the Suez, but also the Panama, and Mallaca strait. Maybe not perminantly but long enough to effect the balance sheet of every major corporation, drastically increase inflation, and threaten every politician who refused to send Navy ships to deter Russian agression in the Black Sea.

A Small Request For Help

These are all highly unlikely scenarios but they are unlikely only because of the reputation of Ukrainian as excellent sailors who have safely navigated ships for centuries. Sailors who have always prioritized safe navigation over personal need.

Right now Captain Oleksiy Luchyno is only asking for donations. What if he asked for a lot more?

Back to Main


Maritime and offshore news trusted by our 96,907 members delivered daily straight to your inbox.