Ukraine stops Russian ship loaded with grain at Black Sea port
CNN obtained a July 20 order from a court in Kyiv allowing authorities to detain the ship. Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office had asked the court “to prohibit the representatives of the registered owner, beneficial owner, operator, charterer and any other person from taking any action to dispose, use, dispose of the property specified, including prohibiting them from leaving the port of Chornomorsk.”
It was not immediately clear when Ukrainian authorities decided to detain the vessels, but shipping industry sources told CNN it happened last week. A maritime source who declined to report due to the sensitivity of the issue said Ukrainian authorities decided to seize the ship because they wanted to seize any possible Russian assets.
A Ukrainian official confirmed to CNN on Friday that “the ship is under arrest and not allowed to leave port.” The official would not be identified as he was not authorized to speak officially. A second source close to operations in Chornomorsk also confirmed that the vessel had been detained.
A shipping industry source told CNN that the Emmakris III was loaded with some 60,000 tonnes of grain already purchased by the Egyptian government. The ship has been stuck in Chornomorsk since the start of the Russian invasion in February.
In the months following the invasion, Ukraine complained persistently that Russian aggression in the Black Sea had crippled commercial shipping, with Ukrainian officials specifically mentioning the Emmakris III. The Ukrainian Embassy in Cairo said on Facebook in April: “Russia is blocking a ship bound for Egypt loaded with Ukrainian wheat bought by Egypt.
Russia said Ukraine’s mining of coastal waters was to blame for the halt in shipping.
Now the Ukrainians themselves are preventing the ship from leaving. The prosecution in the Kyiv court case said that while the Emmakris III was apparently owned by a company in Dubai, its “real owner” is a Rostov-on-Don-based Russian shipping company called Linter.
CNN contacted Linter and the Russian Defense Ministry. As of press time, neither had responded.
Linter is also listed by shipping databases as the owner of the Emmakris II, which was allegedly involved in transporting stolen grain to occupied parts of Ukraine. Linter’s website includes photographs of the Emmakris II in the Black Sea.
A week-long investigation by CNN, based on satellite images, photographs and navigational data, shows that the Emmakris II spent several days moored off the port of Sevastopol in Crimea annexed by Russia in late June.
He received several visits from a smaller vessel which had loaded grain in the harbor – and which appears to have transferred its cargo to the Emmakris II.
The smaller ship, the M Andreev, also registered in Linter, had been photographed loading in Sevastopol a few days before skirting the Emmakris II, according to a maritime source in Sevastopol.
The source spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
Shipping sources told CNN there have been frequent transshipments of grain to bulk carriers sitting off Sevastopol for several months.
The Emmakris II left its anchorage on July 6 and was photographed crossing the Bosphorus four days later.
The MarineTraffic ship tracking service shows it crossing the Red Sea and entering the Gulf of Oman, bound for the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr. But his transponder or tracker was turned off on July 22.
In several cases, as CNN reported, ports in Egypt and Lebanon refused to accept the grain after appeals from the Ukrainian government. At least two shipments ended up in a Syrian port.
Russian authorities in Crimea have acknowledged the trade but insist the grain is purchased legally. In June, Crimean administration head Sergei Aksyonov said that “grain from the liberated territories is in transit to the Republic of Crimea, then it goes to Sevastopol for sale.”
Last month, Ukrainian authorities estimated that at least half a million tonnes of Ukrainian grain had been illegally shipped by the Russians.
Nic Robertson, Josh Pennington, Gianluca Mezzofiore and Katie Polglase contributed to this report.