(Reuters) — Insurers face half a billion dollars in claims for up to 60 commercial ships still stuck in Ukraine a year after the start of the war with Russia, industry sources said.
When the conflict started, more than 90 merchant ships – many with food cargoes on board – and around 2,000 crew members were trapped in Ukraine and unable to leave because of the fighting.
Limited shipments from major grain exporter Ukraine played a role in the resulting global food crisis.
According to estimates by the shipping and insurance industry, between 40 and 60 ships are still stranded, and shipowners can claim total loss for ships stuck for a year from their insurers.
With insurers already grappling with exposure to commercial aircraft caught up in Russia, the prospect of payouts is likely to lead to higher costs for shipments from the region.
A senior industry source said the exposure for the ships currently stuck was estimated at $500 million. “While the flight will be bigger, there will be claims,”; said another.
London-listed Taylor Maritime Investments is among ship operators with a ship and its corn cargo still in Ukraine. The company has tried to protect its assets through insurance, said its chief executive Edward Buttery.
“We’ve kept the (insurance) cover in place the whole time. It cost a lot of money, but the ship is worth a lot more,” he told Reuters. is a real headache.”
Despite military gains, many of Ukraine’s ports are still affected by fighting, with floating mines around the Black Sea region increasing the risks.
The largest port, Odesa, is part of a UN-backed deal that allows grain to leave three of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, which has allowed some ships to sail.
The exit of dry bulk carriers has been prioritized, but an estimated five ships, including the Joseph Schulte container ship, remain stuck there.
Germany’s BSM, which manages Joseph Schulte, has been trying to get the ship out of Odesa for a year so far without success, a group spokesman said.
Other Ukrainian ports not part of the UN arrangement – including the No. 2 Mykolaiv grain terminal, where industry estimates suggest more than 25 ships are still stuck – remain blocked.
More than 300 sailors are still stranded, and in an open letter shipping unions this week called on the United Nations to evacuate the seafarers, saying “just doing their job cannot come at the cost of their lives.”