NATO warns ships to stay away from Russia’s largest port
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 says 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 key oil hub for the country.
Wednesday, the publication upstream reported that President Biden had excluded the Chevron-led Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) (NYSE: CVX) from his ban on Russian oil and gas imports in a bid to leave open the export route via the Russian coast of the black Sea. On the same day, gCaptain had also reported that at least one publicly traded tanker company, Frontline (NYSE: FRO), had a ship loaded with chemicals leaving port.
“The risk of collateral damage or direct hits to civilian shipping in the northwest Black Sea region is considered VERY HIGH,” NATO said. “There are strong indicators that the intensity of military operations along the Ukrainian Black Sea coast and in the Gulf of Odessa is increasing. The risk of GPS jamming, AIS spoofing, communications jamming, electronic interference and cyber attacks in the area is considered high. Harassment and hijacking of navigation in the area cannot be excluded. “
Novorossiysk is a key oil export hub and the terminus of Kazakhstan’s CPC pipeline. According to the official CPC website, the port shipped a record 43 million barrels of crude in February alone. The port also contains chemical export docks, a large timber export facility, containers, and can handle grain. Novorossiysk is home to the Russian Maritime Academy and it is a road and rail hub that connects to all of Russia’s major industrial and population centers.
Novorossiysk is less than 60 nautical miles from Crimea and the Kerch Strait. It is approximately 150 nautical miles by air to the hotly contested port of Mariupol.
This NATO action could cripple one of Russia’s most important cities, but the warning does not include the port itself. Vessels can travel approximately 100 nautical miles south by southeast of the harbor and then turn into the Bospherous without entering the NAVAREA warning.
Also Read: Will Russia’s Tanker Fleet Come to a Stop?
While ships may be able to avoid NATO warnings, they probably won’t be able to avoid exorbitant insurance rates.
Warnings and threats of higher rates did not stop all ships. According to Marine Traffic, there are currently 120 vessels of all sizes in the port of Novorossiysk, 97 of which are under the Russian flag. 20 tankers are in port, including the NATO-flagged tanker Minerva Symphony and non-NATO-flagged tankers from Malta (4), Panama and Liberia.
Loading foreign tankers in Novorossiysk
According to Equasis, the tanker Minerva Symphony is Greek-owned, Greek-flagged, UK-insured and inspected by a US non-profit organization.
The Panamanian tanker, DUKE 1, is owned by Israel and is inspected by an American non-profit organization.
The Liberian-flagged tanker LIGOVSKY PROSPECT is Russian-owned, UK-insured and inspected by a US non-profit organization.
The tanker SEASALVIA, flying the Maltese flag, is owned by Greece and is inspected by an American non-profit organisation.
The Maltese-flagged tanker SEAJEWEL is Liberian-owned, insured in the UK and inspected by an Italian non-profit organization.
The Maltese-flagged GEA tanker is owned by Greece and is inspected by a US non-profit organization.
The Maltese flagged tanker PRIDE is Turkish owned, UK insured and UK Non-Profit inspected.
Also Read: Russia’s Naval Blockade Could Starve Millions
Author’s Note – The Fog of War
Although I have obtained a USCG Unlimited Master’s license to command vessels of all sizes and despite my experience sailing around the world, this article took me hours of research and fact-checking. The NATO publication is confusing for several reasons:
- they continue to be linked to the Spanish NAVAREA warnings
- the warning makes no mention of specific hazards to watch out for or who might fire “direct hits at civilian shipping”
- the statement drops attention-grabbing words like “MINE DANGER” without further explanation
- it makes no mention of the resources NATO has in the region to protect shipping
- the statement contains 557 words but never uses the word ‘ onceRUSSIA’
Even more ridiculous is the fact that they issue a stark warning about a highly belligerent navy that has ever fired on unarmed ships, used unarmed ships as human shields, killed sailors and continually lies to NATO about almost 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 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 to the innocent sailors currently working in the Black Sea.
For live updates on this crisis, follow Captain John Konrad on Twitter