In Russia, Ukraine
Cargo ship in Black Sea

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim on Friday (22 July), after the now defunct agreement between, the Russian Federation, Türkiye, Ukraine and the United Nations to establish a humanitarian maritime corridor to allow ships to export critical cargoes of grain and foodstuffs from Ukraine.

Originally published by Moon of Alabama, on August 17, 2023.

The Ukrainian presidential office continues it accumulation of media victories which, unfortunately for Ukraine, do not reflect the facts on the ground.

A signature example comes in the form of widespread reports about a ship that a day ago left the port of Odessa:

Cargo Ship Travels From Port of Odesa in Test of Ukraine’s New Black Sea Corridor – NY Times
Kyiv is aiming to resume traffic to its seaports despite Russia’s threats to ships moving to and from Ukraine.

A civilian cargo ship that has been stuck in Odesa since the start of the war set off early Wednesday morning, becoming the first to venture out of the port into the turbulent waters of the Black Sea since Moscow threatened all ships moving to and from Ukraine.

The move is part of Ukrainian efforts to restore seaport traffic despite a de facto Russian blockade. Kyiv’s efforts to resume exports of grain and other goods raise the stakes for Ukraine’s allies, as an attack or other episode could draw other nations whose ships travel the waters into the conflict.

Establishing a safe path for the small number of internationally flagged ships stranded in Ukrainian ports for 18 months would mark a milestone, but Ukraine also hopes it will be a demonstration that Russia does not dominate the sea and that shipping to Ukrainian seaports can be resumed.

“The fact that the first ship left the port is a little victory for Ukraine,” said Andriy Klymenko, the director of the Institute for Strategic Black Sea Studies, a Ukrainian research organization. “Let the first one be a lucky one.”

The nearly 1,000-foot-long container ship Joseph Schulte, which flies under the flag of Hong Kong and has been stranded in Odesa since arriving there the day before Russia launched its full-scale invasion some 18 months ago, set a course to Istanbul using a corridor in Ukrainian territorial waters established by the Ukrainian ministry of infrastructure for civilian vessels.

In establishing the corridor, the Ukrainian navy said that it could assure ships safe passage through a maze of maritime mines they have installed to protect the Ukrainian coast. But it could offer no assurances of protection from Russian mines and warships.

Once they leave Ukrainian waters, ships would be able to chart a course to Turkey within the national waters of Romania and Bulgaria, which are members of NATO and under the alliance’s protection.

Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, a company with headquarters in Germany that owns the ship in partnership with a Chinese bank, said in a statement that all the crew was safe as it departed Ukraine with 2,000 containers full of goods on board. It is not clear exactly what the ship is carrying, but it was not designed to carry grain.

I happen to know a member of the Schulte family, which owns the management company, for a long time. I was told that the ships move out of Odessa was not the blockade run that Ukraine claims it was.

cargo ship

Joseph Schulte, IMO 9605243, under its former name

The ship management company put out a statement that offered its thanks in an unusual diplomatic language:
Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) is pleased to confirm that its managed container vessel JOSEPH SCHULTE (IMO: 9605243) departed the port of Odesa, Ukraine and is now on its voyage to Istanbul, Türkiye. All crew are safe on board and well.

JOSEPH SCHULTE is jointly owned by a Chinese Bank and Bernhard Schulte, and she utilizes the established corridor (IMO circular 4748) and via territorial waters of Ukraine, Romania, and Türkiye to allow for a safe passage of southbound vessels.

BSM is grateful to the various stakeholders on the ground, the vessel’s crew, the IMO, the Hong Kong flag administration and the people whose great support has made the vessel’s safe sailing possible.

JOSEPH SCHULTE had been moored in the port of Odesa since her arrival on 23 February 2022.

After the ship had been stopped in Odessa the crew had largely left and was repatriated. As far as I know the ship had to be taken out of its charter and renamed. To get the ship ready to leave a new crew had to be organized and put on board.

It was also necessary to get the Russian governments agreement for the ship to leave. As the Russian news outlet Topnews reports (machine translation):

Second, ship inspection [by] the Russian Armed Forces are possible, but the key threat is the delivery of weapons to Ukraine, which in this case is unlikely.

Recall that two days ago, the Russian side stopped the ship Sukru Okan, which was going to Odessa, for inspection. But Joseph Schulte follows from the port. On the contrary, analysts are sure that his departure plays into the hands of the Russian Armed Forces, as it reduces the chance of Ukrainian attacks from behind someone else’s back.

In addition, the release of the vessel was requested by the co-owner from China, the request came from the Hong Kong Foreign Ministry, which reduces the degree of suspicion. In general, according to experts, after the cancellation of the grain deal, the situation in the Black Sea area remains stable.

Indeed. In yesterday’s morning report Dima, of the Military Summary Channel, reported on the foreign ministry request and even showed a copy of it (@2:00 min):

Copy of brief releasing ship at China company's request.

Copy of brief releasing ship at China company’s request. From Dima’s Military Summary Channel.

It is on official foreign ministry paper with the written request in Russian language. Russia will not reject such a request from its major ally. It has obviously agreed to let the ship leave Odessa. The ship does not carry any grain but only its regular load of containers.

This is a not a victory for Ukraine. It does not confirm the validity of its so-called corridors.

The map may help to avoid the anchor mines the Ukrainian navy has dropped into the sea but it will not hinder Russian forces from following their orders. Any ship that wants to go to Odessa or any other Ukrainian port or leave from them will have to at least be checked by Russian forces and may well be told by them to turn around.

The New York Times report, and all similar ones in the western press that I have read, is not correct as it leaves out the most important facts and replaces them with Ukrainian propaganda.

Bernhard Schulte Management is well known in its trade. It will let other ship managing companies know what the real state of shipping access to Ukraine is.



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