Russian forces captured Zmiinyi (Snake) Island during the first day of its invasion of Ukraine. The island located in the Black Sea near Danube Delta plays an important role in delimiting Ukranian territorial waters. The attacks on Ukraine’s coast threatens loss of key naval bases as well as critical shipbuilding capacity.
Yesterday, the Turkish-owned bulk carrier Yasa Jupiter was also hit by a missile off the coast of Odessa, sustaining slight damage and becoming the first confirmed merchant ship casualty of war following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Since then two other ships have been hit by missiles in the Black Sea: the Moldova-flagged chemical tanker Millennial Spirit and the Panama-flagged bulk carrier Namura Queen. The Merchant Marine Directorate of the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) has urged all Panamanian-flagged ships to avoid transiting through Ukrainian and Russian waters in the Black Sea (located between Eastern Europe and Western Asia) and the Azov Sea. (located northeast of the Crimean peninsula, between Russia and Ukraine). The US Department of Transport has indicated that one of the risks vessels may experience is GPS interference, AIS spoofing, and/or other communications jamming when navigating in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.
On February 24th, it was indicated that NATO had more than 120 allied ships “from the high north to the Mediterranean and more than 100 jets on high alert,” however, there are currently no NATO naval assets providing reinforcement in the Black Seas itself.