Dozens of vessels trapped in ice in frozen Azov sea

March 16 update
Alaca-1 is afloat and as of March 16 on air with AIS signal, but AIS signal of Kapitan Ivan Vikulov disappeared. Turkish general cargo vessel Astol (IMO 8230156, dwt 3584, built 1971, flag Sierra Leone, manager CANTAS SHIPPING & TRADING LTD, Turkey) still drifting in ice in western part of Azov sea near Krym peninsula coastline.
Voytenko Mikhail
March 16

One freighter probably sank, another one is drifting abandoned, and another one goes unreported
Russian maritime authorities reported that there are no vessels stuck in ice in Azov sea, as of March 01. 33 vessels are proceeding to Azov sea ports, divided in two convoys, under icebreakers escort. 86 vessel are waiting for ice-channeling in Azov ports, and 70 vessels are waiting for ice-channeling to Azov sea ports at ice edge in Kerch Strait. Russian authorities didnt mention Turkish general cargo vessel Astol (IMO 8230156, dwt 3584, built 1971, flag Sierra Leone, manager CANTAS SHIPPING & TRADING LTD, Turkey), drifting in ice in western part of Azov sea near Krym peninsula coastline. Vessel is bound for Berdyansk, Ukraine, and stuck in ice in the beginning of February.
They didnt say anything about two other vessels, which were abandoned by the crews in the beginning of February. General cargo vessel Captain Ivan Vikulov is drifting, stuck in ice, in western part of the Azov sea, nearby was Turkish general cargo vessel Alaca-1, but AIS signal of Alaca-1 disappeared since Feb 28 or 29. From March 5, signal reappeared, vessel is still afloat and drifting.
Two derelict general cargo vessels are drifting somewhere in the middle of Azov sea. Russian m/v Captain Ivan Vikulov caught fire on the night of Feb 5 and issued distress signal. 14 crew was evacuated by helicopter and by icebreaker Kapitan Moshkin. Another general cargo vessel, Turkish Alaca-1, got a hole or holes on the night of Feb 7, while being stuck in ice, the hull obviously was punctured by the moving ice. 12 crew left vessel and went on ice, during the daytime Feb 7 theyve been evacuated from ice by Ukrainian Emergency Agency helicopter Mi-8.
Voytenko Mikhail
March 02

Alaca 1 (ex ST 1343, Don 4, Subar) IMO 8872277, dwt 2734, built 1989, flag Panama, manager BOYSHIP MARINE CORP, Turkey.

Captain Ivan Vikulov IMO 8862038, dwt 5885, built 1992, flag Malta, manager V Holding Ltd, Moscow, Russia.

Russian maritime authorities lie to protect themselves

Official news, which made shipowners and sailors fuming with indignation:

The merchant ships send by shipowners to the Azov Sea are not entirely prepared for navigation in harsh winter conditions because of high charter rates on ice-class vessels, a Rosmorport official told reporters at a briefing today. As Alexander Davydenko, head of Federal Marine and River Transport Agency (Rosmorrechflot) said the main task now is to assist the ships stuck in the waters of the Sea of Azov and after that to decide over liability of shipowners. Overall, there are currently 35 merchant ships waiting for icebreaking assistance in the Sea of Azov, 31 of them inbound, 4 outbound. There are also 65 vessels in the Russian ports of the Azov Sea that are ready to depart, only 19 of them comply with the ice-class requirements. From the Black Sea 68 vessels are waiting to pass the Kerch Strait in the Sea of Azov, 29 of them have ice-class.

To put it mild, what Davydenko (whom I know personally) said, is not correct. To put it straight, hes lying. Russian and Ukrainian maritime authorities demonstrate their utter inability to act in force-majeure situation, caused by severe winter and anomalous low temperatures. Even figures voiced by Mr. Davydenko are not correct, there are much more vessels trapped in ice than the number he mentioned. But the main lie is the explanation of what caused vessels to be trapped in ice. Davydenko said that this is the fault of the greedy shipowners, who send to frozen sea unprepared vessels. He forgot to mention, that the authorities were caught unprepared and didnt issue warnings in advance, and its not all they didnt prohibit vessel from entering Azov sea, when there was still time to prevent the force-majeure. Maritime Bulletin receives letters from shipowners and sailors every day, describing a mess in Azov sea, resulted from authorities professional failure.

Mr. Davydenko forgot to mention such curious moments, as restricting the media from contacts with crews, or chaotic management of the icebreakers, or the absence of any kind of organization required for providing trapped vessels with food and water. He didnt say of course, why the briefing was summoned weeks after the emergency arose.

Russian and Ukrainian maritime (and not only maritime) authorities dont care much, if at all, for their professional ability to carry out their duties, theyre afraid of only one thing, of the displeasure of the States leaders. During the last few days Russian and Ukrainian media, with hefty contribution from Maritime Bulletin, started to pay more and more attention to the situation in the Azov sea, and maritime authorities felt that the scandal is already brewing. There is a very sensitive presidential pre-election period in Russia, and the main pretender, M.r Putin, may get interested in the situation too, and then God helps those whom hell nail as responsible for the Azov sea fiasco.

Two days ago I published a critical article in my blog on Radio Moscow Echo website, most visited news website in Russia, with some 500,000 unique visitors per day, and most feared by officials, too. After the publication, Mr. Davydenko summoned the press briefing and blamed shipowners and ships masters. Whether its a coincidence or a reaction, is anyones guess. I for one, dont believe in such coincidences.

Voytenko Mikhail
Feb 18 2012

186 cargo vessels are trapped in ice in Azov sea and Kerch Strait

Unusually cold winter in Azov Black seas region froze Azov sea and Kerch Strait, which connects Azov and Black sea. Locals say they cant remember anything like that for at least 30 years. Ice covers most part of Azov sea, reaching some 30 centimeters in thickness, with icepacks up to 1.2 meter high. Emergency Agency of Ukraine reports some 60 cargo vessels are presently trapped in ice, scattered around Azov sea area. 126 vessels have been thronged near or in Kerch Strait, waiting for ice channeling to Azov sea ports. Theres a growing danger of shortage of fuel and provisions on board of vessels trapped in Azov sea, some of them are stuck in ice for more than 10 days. Turkish freighter Taurus already asked for immediate assistance, requiring either icebreaker of delivery of fuel and provisions (, as of evening Feb 9 at least 8 other vessels are in critical condition, too, running out of provisions and fuel.

There are presently 4 Russian icebreakers and 3 ice-classed tugs, plus probably, 2 Ukrainian icebreakers. They have to deal with dozens of stuck in ice vessels, scattered around a vast area of Azov sea. Azov sea MRCC zone is divided between Russia and Ukraine, with almost nil cooperation between the two States.

In Russia itself, there is no Agency solely responsible for rescue operations at sea, in cases of emergency a bunch of Agencies and organizations comes up to the scene with their facilities. Among them are the biggest rescue agency of Russia, Emergency Ministry of Russia, then Maritime Rescue Agency, Ministry of Fisheries has its own Rescue service, then there is Navy and there is Coast Guard, both possessing separate rescuers. There is no coordination between them, everybody is for himself and considers others as rivals. Icebreakers in Azov sea belong to Rosmorport Agency, rather dubious in its character and origin State-owned organization, managing all sea ports of Russia.

Such a mess results in Azov sea mess icebreakers are sweating themselves out running from one distress vessel to another, all Russian Rescue agencies keep away as long as most vessels are trapped in Ukrainian zone of responsibility, meanwhile few Ukrainian Rescue helicopters do their best to evacuate crews and ill members of crew. If weather and ice conditions wont improve soon enough to release vessels from ice trap, obviously, there will be a general request from dozens of vessels to provide them with fuel and provisions, and the only possible way to do it seems to be air transportation.

Voytenko Mikhail
Feb 09 2012

Pics of the vessels in Azov sea ice