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Joseph Schulte leaves Odessa port

The first commercial ship to leave Ukraine’s Black Sea ports since the beginning of the war in February 2022 set sail for Turkey today, according to local sources.

The 9,400 teu Joseph Schulte, owned by German company Bernard Schulte and had been operated by MSC, which has been docked in the war-torn port of Odessa since the conflict in Ukraine began left for Turkey, ostensibly under ballast.

In July the Russians refused to renew the agreement that allowed bulk vessels to operate the grain corridor, exporting foodstuff to maintain populations in the Middle East and Africa.

In bringing that agreement to an end Russia effectively renewed its blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports for commercial as well as military shipping. The departure of the Hong Kong flagged Joseph Schulte from Odessa will test Russia’s resolve to maintain that blockade.

On 13 August a Russian Navy vessel, fired warning shots across the bow of the Palau-flagged Sukru Okan, with troops boarding and searching the bulk carrier.

Nevertheless, Daniil Melnychenko, an analyst at transport consultancy Informall, based in Odessa, told Seatrade Maritime News, “The expectations are that Türkiye flagged ships that were stuck here [in Ukraine] since the beginning of the war will also leave the big Odessa regional ports.”

According to Melnychenko many of the bulk carriers that have been docked in southern Ukraine are Turkish flagged vessels, so the departure of the container ship has heightened expectations that others will follow.

VesselsValue reports suggest that the Joseph Schulte vessel, which MSC has confirmed is no longer in its fleet, will first call at the Luk Sintez Oil Terminal to load bunkers. It will then sail to the Turkish port of Ambarli on the north shore of the Marmara Sea, on the European side of Istanbul, to offload the few containers on board and for inspection.

Melnychenko added that the vessel will likely be crewed by a mixture of Turkish and older Ukrainian men, over 60-years-old.