A cargo ship is hit by a Russian missile in a Ukrainian port

After a cargo vessel carrying iron ore to steel giant ArcelorMittal, which was damaged by a Russian missile near Odesa, Ukraine sought to assure shipowners that its Black Sea trade corridor is viable.

It is the first civilian vessel to be hit this way since the beginning of Russia’s full invasion of Ukraine in 2014. However, there have been damages from mines sunk in the sea.

Ukraine, confident in its own onshore defence system, has been guiding vessels along its coastline since Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea grain agreement to facilitate exports.

The Ukrainian government has released very few details regarding the incident. Its focus was on securing the support of shipping firms to maintain international trade.

Ukraine’s Southern Military Command said on Wednesday evening that the superstructure of an Liberian flagged civilian vessel was damaged when it entered one of Odesa’s three active port.

Photos of the damage released by Ukraine and marine tracking data suggest the ship was the Liberian-flagged bulk carrier Kmax Ruler and that the ship’s bridge was hit.

A port employee and a pilot were both injured. Ukraine’s officials report that three of the ship crew, all Filipinos, were also injured. ArcelorMittal confirmed the ship would be carrying its cargo. Oleksandr Kumar, Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister, confirmed that the iron ore would be heading to China.

Kubrakov said on Thursday that the trade corridor continued to be active, despite Russian attacks against Ukraine’s ports. Kubrakov said that six ships, carrying 231,000 tonnes worth of agricultural products, had left Odesa port since the attack. Five more were waiting to load at the ports’ entrances.

Kubrakov wrote on the social media platform X that vessel traffic continues on the corridor, both from and to the ports. Kubrakov added that the Ukrainian defense forces “are doing all they can to resist the aggression of the aggressor nation on the port infrastructure”.

Intercargo, the shipowners’ association, condemned this act of aggression, calling it “a stark reminder about the fragility and insecurity of maritime safety and Security”. The statement continued: “Bulk Carriers, with their innocent crew, are the epitome non-combatant ships.”

The strike was not clear at first. It is unclear if the ship was the intended target or if it was struck by debris or air defences from Ukraine. The Ukrainian MTWTU maritime trade union, however, said that the ship was hit by a missile which targeted vessels’ radar systems. This would indicate a deliberate attack on the ship.

Neil Roberts is the head of marine insurers at Lloyd’s Market Association. He said that it was still economically sensible for shipowners, cargo owners and charterers to continue shipping. Shipowners must consider their crew’s safety and, if the attacks continue, they may have to rethink.

Roberts stated that there will probably be a temporary increase in the premiums of war risk insurance for this area.