Insurers calculate the costs of ships that got stuck in the Ukraine crisis

(Reuters) – Insurers are facing half a billion dollars in claims for up to 60 merchant ships still stranded in Ukraine a year after the war with Russia began, industry sources have said.

When the conflict began, more than 90 merchant ships – many with food cargo on board – and some 2,000 crew members were detained in Ukraine and unable to sail due to the fighting.

Limited supplies from major grain exporter Ukraine played a role in the resulting global food crisis.

The shipping and insurance industry estimates that between 40 and 60 ships are still stranded and shipowners can claim a total loss from their insurance company for a year on ships that are stranded.

With insurers already grappling with the risk of commercial aircraft in Russia, the prospect of payouts will likely result in higher costs for supplies from the region.

A senior industry source said the risk to the ships, which are currently stranded, is estimated at $500 million. “As aviation grows, there will be claims,” ​​said another.

London-listed Taylor Maritime Investments is among ship operators with one ship and its corn cargo still in Ukraine. The company has tried to protect its assets with insurance, its chief executive Edward Buttery said.

“We have maintained the (insurance) protection for the long term. It cost a lot of money, but the ship is worth a lot more,” he told Reuters. “The responsibility of the people who have stuck ships there to get those ships out — that’s a real headache.”

Despite military achievements, many of Ukraine’s ports are still beset by fighting, with floating mines around the Black Sea region adding to the risks.

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The largest port, Odessa, is part of a United Nations-backed deal that will allow grain to leave three of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, which has allowed some ships to sail out.

It has given priority to the exit of bulk carriers, but an estimated five ships, including the container ship Joseph Schulte, are stranded there.

The German BSM, which manages the Joseph Schulte, has been trying unsuccessfully to get the ship from Odessa for a year, a group spokesman said.

Other Ukrainian ports not part of the UN deal — including Mykolaiv Grain Terminal No. 2, where industry estimates say more than 25 ships are still stranded — remain blocked.

More than 300 seafarers are still stranded and in an open letter this week, shipping associations urged the UN to evacuate the seafarers, saying “Simply doing their job cannot come at the cost of their lives.”