Bosphorus sea trade unaffected by Ukraine war, sanctions

Bosphorus sea trade unaffected by Ukraine war, sanctions

Bosphorus sea trade unaffected by Ukraine war, sanctions

Bosphorus sea trade unaffected by Ukraine war ( Credit: Google)

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  • Trade is booming at the Black Sea’s entrance, with freighters and oil tankers.
  • The overall number of ships on the route is still approximately 40,000.
  • Some freighters loaded the wheat in Ukrainian ports under Russian blockade.
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Trade is booming at the Black Sea’s entrance, with freighters and oil tankers sailing from Istanbul’s centre to Russian and Ukrainian ports.

The largest ships of foreign firms patrolling these seas were replaced by smaller ships shortly after Russia’s offensive in Ukraine on February 24 and the initial Western sanctions.

According to experts, the overall number of ships on the route is still approximately 40,000, as it was before WWII.

“Russia shamelessly steals Ukrainian grain and sends it overseas from Crimea, including to Turkey,” said Vasyl Bodnar, Ukraine’s ambassador to Ankara.

“In May alone, we counted at least 10 passages including two round trips from three vessels flying the Russian flag… Not to mention those that we would have collectively missed.”

From his terrace overlooking the Bosphorus, Yoruk Isik has been a passionate observer of ship movements on this key waterway between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean for a decade now.

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While swiftly condemning the Russian offensive in Ukraine, Turkey positioned itself as a neutral mediator and refused to join Western sanctions against Moscow.

Read more: Grain allegedly taken from Ukraine arrives in Syria on a Russian ship

Although Ankara has banned the passage of military vessels through its straits of the Dardanelles and Bosphorus since late February under the Montreux Treaty of 1936, it is not legally entitled to intercept commercial ships or to search them, a diplomatic source said in Ankara.

“We don’t follow the ships on their way out of the Straits. We monitor them 10 kilometres before they enter and 10 kilometres after they leave,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

Elizabete Aunina, a researcher at Amsterdam University, said: “If we look at the vague words of the Montreux treaty it leaves a lot up for interpretation.

“It did not foresee that merchant vessels could be carrying stolen goods… Turkey has before showed a certain commitment to stick to the very basic interpretation of the Convention as a way to also protect itself from entering deeper into the conflict”.

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The European Union imposed an embargo on Russian imports but tankers flying the Greek or Maltese flags are seen sailing through the Bosphorus up to the Black Sea to the Russian ports.

– Maritime corridors –

Thanks to real-time tracking applications, a strong network of observers, Russian and Ukrainian activists and satellite images, no vessel escapes Isik’s radar.

“We can see from end to end, where the ship is getting loaded by the ship,” he said.

Some freighters loaded the wheat in Ukrainian ports under Russian blockade such as Odessa, Chornomorsk or Mariupol, he said.

The destination? Syria — where Russia retains an operational base — and then Lebanon or Egypt.

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Isik also identified a flotilla of old Turkish boats, “never seen before in the area” suddenly appearing under a flag of convenience in the Russian port of Novorossiysk — “likely under contract with the Russian government”.

He lists a few names: Kocatepe (now Tanzanian), Barbaros (Equatorial Guinea), Hizir (Malta) and Sampiyon Trabzonsport (Cameroon).

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will visit Turkey on Wednesday to discuss a possible establishment of “sea corridors” — although Ukrainian wheat is being covertly exported to Russia’s benefit, according to experts.

“This is the information we get but we cannot stop, or check, or question the intention of any cargo ship except if we feel a threat to Turkish peace or security,” the diplomatic source said.

“What is occurring is wrong,” says Isik, who maintains a roster of cargo ships owned by the Russian defence ministry and those operated on its behalf by private enterprises.

Read more : Ukraine asserts In the eastern city, Russian soldiers pushed back

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