After the European airports, now forbidden to Russian planes, the ports? On February 28, the United Kingdom ordered a ban on access to ships flying the Russian flag, or chartered or controlled by Russians… A measure that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would like to see generalized to all “ports of the world”.
Several Western shipowners have announced, for their part, that they are temporarily suspending reservations for shipping cargo to and from Russia. This is the case of MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, headquartered in Geneva. The shipowner, however, clarified that it will continue to accept orders for the delivery of essential goods, such as food, medical equipment and humanitarian goods. Same decision by the Danish giant Maersk, also excluding this type of cargo.
“The impossibility of access to European ports would of course have a political and symbolic dimension to Russia’s isolation. But it wouldn’t cause very significant economic damage to its economy.,says Jérôme de Ricqlès, maritime expert at Upply, a digital transport data platform. The Russian maritime economy is more devoted to the transport of heavy goods, such as wheat or minerals. If these ships could no longer deliver their goods to Europe, it would find many substitute markets, for example in Africa. »
According to the specialist, this is what has been happening with wheat for some time in Algeria, this country turning more and more towards Moscow and much less towards Europe. “In addition, large cargo ships do not need to make technical stops to reach these distant destinations and have international waters to be able to sail legally”says Jérôme de Ricqlès.
For their part, Western ships will undoubtedly, one after the other, stop serving Russian ports. According to the latter, container traffic from and to Russia is relatively insignificant for Western shipowners. “During the invasion of Crimea in 2014, the European market lost only 200,000 containers, compared to the traffic of 14 million”he says.
In addition, ships will raise the question of safety and the price of transport. “Today, there are two main sea accesses to serve Russiarecalls Paul Tourret, director of the Higher Institute of Maritime Economics in Nantes-Saint-Nazaire. By the northern facade, in particular in Saint Petersburg or Murmansk or by the southern facade, that is to say by the Black Sea. However, penetrating into the Black Sea will be considered more and more dangerous by the companies… and the insurance companies, whose prices will begin to be difficult to bear for both shipowners and principals. »
The French broker Verspieren mainly handles, for the maritime sector, cargo insurance for shippers. According to Bénédicte Jobert, head of the maritime and transport department of the broker, French insurers generally base themselves on the recommendations of the Committee for Studies and Services of Maritime and Transport Insurers (Cesam).
“Cesam notably maps the world to assess the coverage of war risks, she says. In countries with a rating of 1 to 6, insurers can automatically include war risk insurance in their contracts. But if the zone changes to a grade 7 and 8, this insurance loses its automaticity and must be requested shipment by shipment. » If the insurance is finally granted, it will generally be at the cost of significant additional premiums. “For a few days, the entire Black Sea, the Sea of Azov and Ukraine had passed into a critical zone, said Benedicte Jobert. Since March 1, it’s all of Russia and Belarus. »