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Severe storms in the Black Sea threaten commercial shipping and disrupt military operations

MariTrace, 30 November 2023

Severe weather conditions began to affect shipping in the Black Sea on 19 November. Source: MariTrace.
Severe storms across the Black Sea are disrupting commercial shipping and navy operations across the contested region and a cyclone has left more than 2 million people without electricity in Crimea, Russia and Ukraine.

On 19 November, two cargo ships were lost at the port of Eregli on Turkey's northern coast. Encountering wind speeds of up to 75 knots and high waves, both vessels struggled to reach the safety of the port in dangerous conditions. Built in 1992, the 88 meter cargo vessel Kafkametler had earlier survived an encounter with a floating mine near the Romanian port of Sulina on 5 October. Kafkametler was reported sunk and the body of one crew member found washed ashore on 20 November. Search and rescue teams were deployed but, to date, no survivors have been found. Nearby, the 114 meter long cargo ship Pallada , built in 1968, broke into two pieces in storm conditions after running aground in 5-meter (16-foot) waves at Eregli. All thirteen crew members were safely rescued.

As the storm continued to gain intensity across the Black Sea, 630km (390 miles) northwest, the cargo vessel Blue Shark ran aground in the early hours of Monday 27 November. Built in 1997, at 197 meters Blue Shark is among the larger vessels that regularly visit the Black Sea. Arriving in the Black Sea on 15 November, Blue Shark appears to have run into difficulties on route to the port of Taman, where she was due to load grain expected for Egypt.

The Kerch Strait was closed to shipping on 24 November and is expected to remain closed until 30 November, due to the very severe weather conditions. On 27 November, Ukraine's defence forces reported that Russia's fleet had returned to base. Storm conditions have disrupted oil shipments from Novorossiysk and the Caspian Pipeline Consortium terminal at Yuzhnaya Ozereveyka, while at Sochi, high waves have generated severe damage and subsidence to railway infrastructure. 395 km (245 miles) north, severe storms have flooded parts of the port of Azov, preventing grain loading; sources suggested that traders were expecting an increase in wheat demand in the coming weeks due to the lack of cargo availability.

**Author's update: as at 30 November, the CPC terminal was reported to have reopened and is operational, with storm damage to one of its three Single Point Moorings.**

No AI was used in the writing of this article. MariTrace analysis and reporting is based on open sources; all information is human-curated and assessed via multi-phase, structured methods using industry-standard techniques to check for provenance, bias and accuracy.

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