32 world-wide shipping organisations approached UN Secretary General António Guterres to help in liberating seafarers caught by the Ukraine war. The open letter urges Guterres to use his diplomatic influence to urgently assist in the evacuation of 331 sailors trapped in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.
The letter is dated February 20, as the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine is approaching. The United Nations had some success in alleviating the effects of the war in Ukraine on maritime industry and world trade when it brokered a deal to allow controlled grain exports from Ukraine. However, the Black Sea Grain Initiative did not just sail; Russia showed its willingness to use the deal as a political tool in October 2022 when it suspended participation in the initiative and questioned the operation. Russia lifted this suspension within days.
On the ground, the situation has improved to such an extent that Stella Maris has resumed ship visits to Odessa to support the seafarers there.
The letter was signed by a long list of shipping companies, maritime charities, shipping associations and other maritime organizations.
The full text of the letter reads:
Your Excellency Secretary General Guterres,
As we approach one year since the start of the war in Ukraine, the co-signatories of this letter write to you to highlight the 331 seafarers still trapped on vessels in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov. We call on the United Nations, and on your diplomatic influence, to address this matter urgently and evacuate all remaining seafarers and ships.
Our seafarers are the heart of our industry and cannot be forgotten. For 12 months now they have been caught up in a crisis far beyond their control. Simply doing their jobs cannot come at the expense of their lives.
We recognise and celebrate the United Nations, and your leadership, for the Black Sea Grain Initiative that the UN successfully brokered with Türkiye between Ukraine and Russia. This has allowed safe passage of critical grain and fertiliser shipments from Ukraine to populations most in need, and curbed food prices from spiralling out of control. We are committed to supporting the continued success of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, however this cannot come at the expense of innocent seafarers’ lives. Action must be taken now.
Without our seafarers, movement of the vital grain shipments out of Ukrainian ports would not have been possible. While there are challenges to evacuating seafarers and their ships, it must nonetheless be a top priority. Otherwise, we risk the lives of our seafarers, and this is unacceptable.
The signatories were: Bahamas Shipowners Association, Bimco, The Italian Shipowners’ Association Confirtama, Cyprus Shipping Chamber, Daiichi Chuo Kisen Kaisha, Danish Shipping, European Community Shipowners’ Association (ECSA), FONASBA, IINO Lines, Intercargo, InterManager, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA), International Federation of Shipmasters’ Associations (IFSMA), International Maritime Employers’ Council Ltd. (IMEC), International Maritime Health Association (IMHA), International Parcel Tankers Association (IPTA), International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI), Intertanko, Japanese Shipowners’ Association, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, Ltd. (“K” LINE), Mitsui OSK Lines, Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK Line), Sailors’ Society, Seafarers Hospital Society, Stella Maris, Synergy Denmark, The Mission to Seafarers, The Seafarers’ Charity, UK Chamber of Shipping, Union of Greek Shipowners and the Association of German Shipowners (VDR).
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