THE International Chamber of Shipping has reinforced its warning that the Russia-Ukraine conflict will send shockwaves through the supply chain if seafarers continue to be impacted.

As Russian forces invade Ukraine, seafarers from both nations as well as those working in the region have experienced crew change disruptions and threats to physical safety.

A 2021 report from ICS and BIMCO indicates there are more than 274,000 Russian and Ukrainian seafarers in the shipping industry, accounting for 14.5% of the workforce.

As such, the ICS said the conflict’s impact on this group will contribute to a shortfall in the global shipping workforce, compounding existing supply chain disruptions.

The challenges extend to those not from the region, but who are working in the Black Sea and in particular the Sea of Azov, which is now a designated Warlike Operations Area.

At an urgently convened IMO meeting, ICS secretary general Guy Platten confirmed the conflict in Ukraine is threatening the safety and security of seafarers and shipping in the area.

“As with COVID, seafarers are being exposed to issues not of their making,” he said.

“Multiple ships have been hit by munitions, seafarers have been killed and injured and seafarers of all nationalities are trapped on ships berthed in ports.

“It is of the utmost urgency that their evacuation from these areas of threat should be ensured by those states with the power to do so.

“The impact upon innocent seafarers and their families cannot be underestimated.”

Flight cancellations in the region have made crew change increasingly difficult since the early days of the crisis, but new obstacles are emerging.

It has been reported that some crews have abandoned their ships in Ukraine due to security concerns.

Fears for crew safety and increasing insurance premiums to send ships to Ukraine or Russia have also discouraged shipowners from sending their vessels to these countries.

The ICS reported industry will present an eight-point plan at an upcoming Extraordinary Meeting of the United Nations to ensure seafarer wellbeing.

The plan will include a call for states to ensure seafarers can access their wages, and for the establishment of safe corridors for ships to leave ports in Ukraine.

“ICS fully supports the establishment of a maritime corridor to allow the safe evacuation of ships that are currently unable to leave territorial waters in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

“They must be allowed to depart the area of conflict and avoid further humanitarian incident.”