Navy boss asks NATO to provide naval escorts in the Black Sea
The head of the world’s largest ship manager has urged NATO to provide naval escorts to commercial ships crossing the Black Sea, which lies off Ukraine’s southern coast, as dozens of people remain stranded in the conflict zone.
Rene Kofod-Olsen, chief executive of V.Group, said the Western military alliance should step in to ensure trade can flow from a region vitally important to the world’s food supply.
“We should demand that our navigation and maritime traffic be protected in international waters. I’m sure NATO and others have a role to play in protecting the commercial fleet,” he said.
V.Group offers its services, operational management and maintenance to shipowners around the world by providing them with its pool of more than 46,000 sailors.
The war in Ukraine has made the northern third of the Black Sea dangerous for navigation, effectively prohibiting access to the country’s coastline, as ships and sailors are threatened by mines and projectiles.
The flow of grain and fertilizers out of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov is of paramount importance for the international food supply, affecting the activities of major agricultural commodity traders Cargill, Bunge, ADM and Louis Dreyfus and the food companies they supply. .
Grain exports from Russia and Ukraine, which account for about 30% of global wheat trade, more than halved in March and April year-on-year so far, according to the group. Sea/ by Maritech maritime data, as the war ends. TOLL.
Eighty-four ships manned by around 500 sailors are also still stranded off Ukraine, while at least 10 have been damaged by projectiles or mines, according to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) of the ‘UN.
However, NATO has said it is not considering a naval mission to escort Black Sea ships, as nations fear being drawn into a potential conflict with Russia.
“Russia’s naval presence in the Black Sea disrupted maritime trade even before its invasion of Ukraine,” NATO said in response to Kofod-Olsen’s appeal.
“NATO is not considering a naval mission to escort ships in the Black Sea, but NATO allies who have coastal borders – Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey – have deployed ships to find and neutralize any mines that may be in the area.”
Any naval mission conducted under the NATO flag by allied ships would require the support of all 30 members of the alliance.
Previously agreed NATO naval missions included counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa to protect international shipping and counter-terrorism operations in the Mediterranean.
Kofod-Olsen said: “If you look at any other place where there has been another major regional conflict and where international waters have been affected, you would find a situation where you would rely on some form of escort.”
His plea for escorts comes as negotiations at the IMO on setting up a demined “blue sea corridor” for the safe passage of merchant ships have stalled.
Russia claims to have established a safe corridor in international waters, but mines in Ukrainian territorial waters were preventing stranded ships from leaving.
Ukraine insists that demining can only take place if there is a ceasefire and a withdrawal of Russian naval vessels followed by a period of stability.
Security officials fear that the establishment of a maritime corridor will create a route for Russian military vessels to Ukraine.
A shipping company executive with a ship stuck in the region said any solution would be long, most likely requiring a ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia and the involvement of the UN rather than the EU. NATO.