Hong Kong-flagged boxship the first to break out of Odesa

The Joseph Schulte, a 10-year-old, 9,400 teu boxship, will be today’s most watched ship via multiple vessel tracking sites as it becomes the first ship to trial Ukraine’s recently announced ‘humanitarian corridor’ to allow the many international ships stranded since war began in February 2022.

“A first vessel used the temporary corridor for merchant ships to/from the ports of Big Odesa,” Ukrainian deputy prime minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Facebook.

The Hong Kong-flagged ship, owned by a Chinese bank and the Schulte Group and managed by Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), is carrying 2,114 containers, and has been unable to move for the past 539 days. The ship is insured by Gard. It left Odesa this morning (pictured), heading to Istanbul via the territorial waters of Ukraine, Romania, and Turkey.

“BSM is grateful to the various stakeholders on the ground, the vessel’s crew, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Hong Kong flag administration and the people whose great support has made the vessel’s safe sailing possible,” a spokesperson for the ship’s manager told Splash today.

Ukraine announced a temporary corridor in the Black Sea six days ago to release merchant ships stuck in its ports since the outbreak of war a year and a half ago. The move, coordinated with the IMO, is seen as a challenge to Russia’s naval blockade it has enacted in recent weeks since quitting a United Nations-brokered grain shipping pact. 

Insurers were left reeling last year when Russia invaded Ukraine with a vast number of assets – including ships – left stranded and under fire. A huge operation to get stranded seafarers out of the country took place over the opening months of the war, a time when a number of merchant ships were hit in the crossfire. 

There remain around 60 international ships marooned in war-torn Ukrainian waters. 

“Vessels whose owners/captains officially confirm that they are ready to sail in the current conditions will be allowed to pass through the routes,” a statement issued last week said, adding that risks remained from mines and the military threat from Russia.

Immediately after Russia withdrew from the grain deal, it stated that all vessels calling Ukraine will be suspected of carrying weapon supplies to Ukraine.

Russia’s navy then conducted multiple strikes on Ukrainian grain facilities and ports including at the Danube River port of Izmail which was an alternative route for exporting grain via Romania.

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