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German owners call for safe passage out of Ukraine

Shipping should not become a 'bargaining chip' in conflict

VDR, the German Shipowners’ Association, says at least 60 ships and more than 1,000 seafarers remain trapped following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It calls for Russia to facilitate ‘blue corridors’ to enable their release

THE German Shipowners’ Association (VDR) is calling for all the ships of the international merchant fleet that are stranded in the war zone of the Black Sea be allowed to depart safely, despite the ongoing conflict in the region.

“We demand that the ships be allowed to sail from the ports at the earliest opportunity and without threat of attack,” said VDR president Gaby Bornheim. “The ships must be granted safe passage so that they can sail out of the war zone with their crews unharmed.”

VDR estimates that more than 60 merchant ships from various nations, including several vessels of German shipping companies, are stranded in ports on the Ukrainian coast.

Conditions for seafarers remaining in the area were becoming challenging, and it was increasingly difficult to resupply provisions to ships.

The association is calling on Russia to facilitate the “blue corridors” proposed by the International Maritime Organization.

“It is an unacceptable state of affairs that, in addition to the Ukrainian population, more than 1,000 seafarers on board merchant vessels in the war zone have to fear for their lives,” Ms Bornheim said. “Ships and their crews must not become bargaining chips in this war of aggression.”

There were, however, “considerable dangers” to any ship that did sail from Ukraine. The risks included mines and possible attack by warships off the coast.

Five ships have already been attacked since the beginning of the war, with one sinking reported.

The VDR also repeated its condemnation of the Russian attack on Ukraine and called for a clear sanctions regime.

“Russia’s violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine is unacceptable to us,” she said. “We support robust economic measures in response to the invasion. The more clearly such sanctions regulations are defined and the less room for interpretation they offer, the better we can manage them in shipping.”

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