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  • Joint Turkish, Romanian and Bulgarian mine clearance operations in the Black Sea
  • Black Sea mine threats and grain export challenges
  • Black Sea grain export and security challenges: 2022-2024
It became dangerous in the sea. ELTA

Joint Turkish, Romanian and Bulgarian mine clearance operations in the Black Sea

Bloomberg reported on 1 July that specialists from Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria have launched a joint operation in the Black Sea to remove mines.

The Turkish authorities' initiative aims to ensure safe navigation, including the safety of cargo ships involved in Ukrainian grain exports[1].

In January, Turkish, Romanian, and Bulgarian authorities agreed on a joint fight against sea mines in the Black Sea.

Even though Ankara, Bucharest, and Sofia are NATO members, their naval forces are being led from outside the alliance to avoid an escalation of tensions with Russia as well, notes Bloomberg.

Black Sea (Bulgarian: Черно море, Černo More, Rom. Marea Neagră, ukr. Чорне море, Čorne more, rus. Čёрное море, Čiornoye more, turk. Kara Deniz), old name Pòntas Euxine (Gr. Pontos Euxeinos, Lat. Pontus Euxinus), mid-Atlantic midcontinental sea, between Europe and Asia, off Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Saqqartvel and Turkey. Area 422 000 km2, maximum depth 2211 m, mean depth 1315 m, water volume 555 000 km3. Length (from west to east) 1150 kilometres. The Bosphorus Strait connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara, the Kerch Strait with the Sea of Azov. The coastline, except for the northern part, is not very curved. In the north-west there are many shallow limans (Dnieper Liman, Dniester Liman). The largest bays are Karkinit Bay, Kalamit Bay, Sinop Bay, Samsun Bay. The largest peninsula is the Crimea. The Danube, the Dniester, the Southern Bug, the Dnieper flow into the Black Sea. The coasts are mostly steep and abrasive.
The largest ports are Burgas, Varna (Bulgaria), Constanţa (Romania), Chornomorsk, Odessa, Mykolayiv, Sevastopol, Feodosia (Ukraine), Novorossiysk (Russia), Sukhumi, Poti, Batumi (Sakartvel), Trabzon, Samsun, Zonguldak (Turkey). The Black Sea coasts are dotted with resorts (Golden Sands in Bulgaria, Mamaia in Romania, Yalta in Ukraine, Sochi in Russia, Gagra and Sukhumi in Sakartvel). Sevastopol and Yalta were occupied by Russia in 2014.

Black Sea mine threats and grain export challenges

Explosive devices that have been drifting freely in the Black Sea since the beginning of the military conflict between Russia and Ukraine pose a security risk and additional challenges to shipping in the Black Sea. In December 2023, a Panamanian-flagged ship exploded on a mine. It was on its way to one of the Danube ports to receive a cargo of grain.

Following the collapse of the grain export deal with Russia in August 2023, Ukraine opened its own maritime corridor in the Black Sea, contributing to exports' growth.

Nevertheless, Bloomberg notes that the new trade route is inferior to the previous ones in terms of traffic volume and safety.

Black Sea grain export and security challenges: 2022-2024

The Ukrainian authorities claim that in spring 2024, food exports through the Black Sea have reached the levels of early 2022. In June, Ukraine's Ministry of Infrastructure reported that 37.4 million tonnes of agricultural products have been exported since the launch of the new maritime corridor[2].

The Black Sea Grains Initiative was an agreement between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and the United Nations at the time of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The invasion halted the sea transport of grain from Ukraine, previously the main exporter via the Black Sea, completely in February 2022.

Bloomberg notes that at the same time, Odessa, a major commercial port, continues to come under regular fire from Russian forces.

In April, Reuters reported, citing sources, that Ukraine had reneged on agreements reached during two months of talks with Russia on safe commercial shipping. The sources noted that Turkey had acted as a mediator in the negotiations and had been approached by UN representatives with a request to do so.

Agnė Belanauskaitė