The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has all but halted shipping activity in the region, which may have a broader effect on the global supply chain. Hundreds of cargo ships have been left stranded in the Black Sea, with dozens left moored at the Ukrainian port of Mykolaiv.
Local reports claimed that crew members on board ships stranded at the port are now in immediate danger. One Bangladeshi cargo ship was reportedly hit by a missile late Wednesday, killing one crew member and injuring dozens of others. The MV Banglar Samriddhi caught fire after the missile strike.
It was the fifth merchant ship hit by artillery fire off the Ukrainian coast since the conflict with Russia began. According to Ukrainian port officials, five tankers and cargo ships were hit by missiles in the Black Sea and the adjacent Sea of Azov, which are major food and oil export routes. Tankers, container ships, and bulk carriers from Japan, Turkey, Moldova, and Estonia are among the affected ships, which were transporting diesel, clay, and grain.
Ukrainian authorities said that around 3,500 sailors had been stuck aboard around 200 ships parked at the port of Mykolaiv. Maritime historians said the number of ships stranded at the board and at the surrounding areas within the Black Sea is the most at any point since the Second World War.
As a result, the world's second-largest grain exporting area has come to a halt. Ukraine exports 16% of the world's corn and 30% of the world's wheat, together with Russia. Since the invasion, global wheat prices have increased by more than 55%.
Russia, which has assembled a fleet of vessels along Ukraine's coast, is widely blamed by Ukrainian officials for the attacks. Russia has denied any involvement in the assaults. Russian soldiers have begun firing missiles at Ukrainian port facilities as part of an alleged strategy to take Ukraine's southern shore and block it off from the rest of the world, suffocating the country's economy.
Ukraine's naval force is no match for Russia's. When Russia captured the Ukrainian navy's naval headquarters after the invasion of Crimea in 2014, the Ukrainian navy lost the majority of its warships. According to Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov, the navy destroyed its lone ship at Mykolaiv last week to prevent being captured by the Russian navy.
NATO cautioned that any ships in the Black Sea could be in significant danger of collateral damage. Following requests from a number of states, the International Maritime Organization said it would host an emergency session on March 10 and 11 to discuss the war's impact on shipping.