Russia remains quiet on Kerch Strait closure
Lloyd’s List Intelligence vessel-tracking data confirms that Russia is preventing vessels loaded outside of Russia from passing through the Kerch Strait into the Sea of Asov
Despite press reports citing Turkish ministerial officials, no official notification of Russian’s closure of the Kerch Strait has yet been made, but security forces have been handed additional responsibilities in the wake of the October 8 bridge blast suggesting that control now lies with Russian security services
RUSSIA appears to have blocked access to the Sea of Asov via the Kerch Strait for any vessels loaded outside of the country.
According to Lloyd’s list Intelligence vessel-tracking data, no vessels loaded outside of Russia or Russian occupied territories, have been allowed to pass through the strait since November 9.
The only vessels currently passing through the Kerch Strait to the north are either Russia-controlled or are in ballast with no cargo.
No official notification of any closure has been made.
Officials from Türkiye’s Directorate General of Maritime Affairs were cited by Russian news agency TASS as confirming the closure on November 12.
“According to the official notification we have received from the Maritime Administration of the Russian Federation, the passage of ships, loaded outside the Russian Federation, to the north through the Kerch Strait into the Sea of Azov is prohibited,” the officials were reported as saying.
Moscow has not confirmed the closure and flag state officials with vessels waiting to transit the Kerch Strait have told Lloyd’s List that no official notice has been given, despite requests for clarity.
Ordinarily any closure of the strait would be the responsibility of Russia’s Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transportation, which has made no announcements and is not responding to calls.
However, following the October 8 explosion on the Kerch Strait bridge which spans the strait, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on strengthening measures to protect the transport crossing through the Kerch Strait. The authority to organise and coordinate protection measures was handed to the Federal Security Service.
The bridge since its construction has been a means to control the strait, leading security analysts to suggest that the closure may be a defensive move from Russia in light of new intelligence.
Vessel traffic through the Kerch Strait resumed within hours of the October 8 explosion and was only temporarily suspended for two weeks at the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine before being fully reopened to traffic by early March.
The Kerch Strait connects the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. The passage is critical for moving goods out of Russia’s Sea of Azov ports, in particular Rostov-na-Donu, and the southern part of the strait plays a fundamental role in the export of Russian grain and oil.
There are two major ship-to-ship transfer areas in the southern part of the Kerch Strait that have been operating for more than 20 years. Oil and oil products as well as bulk commodities, mainly grain, are transported there onto larger ships that take the cargoes to foreign buyers.