Russian information sources present incomplete data about freight turnover or ship visits to occupied ports and do not disclose information about ships entering closed ports, their profiles and freight destination.
This secrecy regime is called upon to hide ships, their owners, cargo consignors and recipients as all of them violate European and American sanctions.
Sanctions against occupied ports
Kerch trade and fishing ports, Kerch ferry and “Kamysh-Burun” private port, Feodosia, Yalta and Yevpatoria trade ports as well as Sevastopol trade and fishing ports were active on Crimean peninsula before occupation.
Crimean port infrastructure was occupied and used by Russians for quick transfer of troops and military equipment to the peninsula in 2014.
Occupants declared nationalization of ports immediately after the pseudo-referendum on March 16, 2014. The State Unitary Enterprise “Krymskie morskie porty” \ “Crimean sea ports” was set up. It included Kerch, Feodosia, Yalta and Yevpatoria trade ports.
All objects of the Sevastopol port infrastructure were transferred to the unitary enterprise “Sevastopol sea port”.
There was no direct railway or automobile communication between Crimea and Russia at that time. That is why cargo and passenger transportation between Crimea and the occupying state was conducted through ports, and, primarily, through the Kerch ferry.
In response to the Russian occupation, Ukraine, the European Union and USA introduced sanctions. Though, not as quickly as they should.
The Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine issued the order “About Closing Sea Ports of Crimea and Sevastopol” only on June 16, 2014.
The National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (NSDCU) applied sanctions against enterprise “Crimean sea ports” in 2015 and against its branches – Kerch port and ferry, Feodosia, Yalta and Yevpatoria trade ports – in 2017.
In 2017, Ukraine also imposed sanctions on state unitary enterprise “Sevastopol sea port”.
The USA imposed their sanctions against legal entities created by Russian occupants on the basis of Crimean ports in 2015-2016 whereas the European Union introduced them in 2014. However, the EU has not yet imposed sanctions against Yalta and Yevpatoria ports.
Sanction restrictions and the ban on visiting closed ports made a serious impact on Crimean ports. After 2014, international freight turnover disappeared.
Visits of foreign ships to Crimean ports violating sanctions gradually fell down. There were no such visits in 2020.
Another serious hit was made by the occupants themselves. The so-called Kerch Bridge was built in 2017. Automobile part of the bridge was introduced first and the railway part followed. Today cargo and passenger transportation between Crimea and Russia is conducted through this Bridge.
As an outcome, freight turnover of Crimean ports (excluding Sebastopol) fell down from 11 million tons to 0,86 million tons in 2012-2020. Losses of “Crimean sea ports” reached 718 million Rubles in 2020.
At the time of occupation, the Kerch ferry included two railway ferries by “Anrusstrans” company (“Annenkov” and “Petrovsk”) and three automobile ferries – old “Kerchensky-2” and “Yeysk” and new one – “Nikolai Aksenenko”.
In February 2014, Russian Cossacks participating in the occupation of Crimea used these ferries to enter the peninsula. Russian state enterprise “Tis-Krym” managing the ferry helped them.
The Kerch Ferry was among the first Crimean objects seized by occupants. It transported the Russian military equipment to Crimea.
The Ukrainian state shipping company “Kerchenska poromna pereprava” \ “The Kerch Ferry Line” was nationalized by occupation “authorities” of Crimea in March 2014.
Occupation turned the ferry into the main transportation means uniting Russia and Crimea. In 2014, number of cars transported through Kerch Strait increased by five times, passengers – by 3,5 times.
Occupants reconstructed piers and supplied a number of new powerful ferries.
Sanctions had little impact on the work of the ferry. The opening of the Kerch Bridge in 2018 made its work unnecessary. In September 2020, the ferry “Annenkov» made its last trip.
Proximity to the Russian coast turned the Kerch port into the gates of the Russian occupation. Along with the Kerch ferry, the port received Russian ferries with occupation troops, equipment and cargo from Russian ports “Kavkaz” and “Temruk”.
Occupants declared nationalization of the enterprise in March 2014. In response, Ukraine, USA and EU introduced sanctions.
It changed the structure of the freight turnover. As an outcome of sanctions, the share of cabotage between Crimea and Russia increased.
Ships conducting import \ export and transit trips enter Kerch secretly, with turned off ship transponders.
After the opening of the Kerch Bridge, the volume of transshipment in the Kerch port fell tenfold, in accordance with reports of “Crimean sea ports”. The Kerch port incurred losses during the period of occupation.
The declared capacity of the Feodosia trade port equals the capacity of the Kerch port.
After the occupation, foreign ships could enter Feodosia only secretly, with turned off transponders. There are also Russian ships transporting the grain from Feodosia to friendly Syria.
The freight turnover of the Feodosia port fell tenfold during occupation years. The Feodosia port is the most unprofitable branch of the “Crimean sea ports” enterprise. Its losses amounted to 224 million Rubles in 2020.
In 2020, the Center for Journalist Investigations published the material “Ports of Crimea”. It focused on the impact of sanctions and effectiveness of various sanction regimes imposed on Russian port bodies illegally created on the basis of the property of Ukrainian state companies. We uncovered the list of Russian companies having direct connections with Crimean legal entities under sanctions or doing their business on the territory or in the water area of Crimean ports. This list includes Russian state companies (like federal state enterprise Rosmorport embracing Azov and Black Seas; “Rostovskii port”; “Administration of sea ports of the Azov Sea”) as well as Russian private companies like LLC “AnRosKrym” of Annenkov, the former Deputy Minister of Transport of Russia. Ferries of this company carried Russian military troops, equipment and Cossacks for the occupation of Crimea in 2014.
What do these Russian companies have in common? They are covered only by Ukrainian sanctions and not included into sanction lists of the USA and EU. It is the task of the Ukrainian government to advocate for the introduction of restrictions for the port business of the country-aggressor. It is the logic of sanctions (for example, American sanctions): those persons who work with “toxic” entities \ entities under sanctions are at risk to be covered by sanctions, too. It should be also noted that neither Yalta nor Yevpatoria ports are included into the EU sanction list. However, this shortcoming is compensated by EU sectorial sanctions about Crimea. They ban entrances of ships to ports of the peninsula, including explicit ban on entrances of cruise ships. It means that Russian occupants “killed” cruise tourism and ferry transportation to foreign ports in Sevastopol, Yalta and Yevpatoria.
What is peculiar about the Yalta port is its focus on passenger transportation. The freight turnover has always been small.
The Yalta port was visited 109 times by cruise liners in the year before the occupation, in accordance with Andrii K;ymenko, the editor-in-chief of BlackSeaNews portal.
When occupants declared the nationalization of the Yalta port in March 2014, they de facto cancelled all international cruises to Crimea as the following sanctions banned them.
Occupied Yalta was attended several times by the ship “Knyaz Vladimir” (turned from the ferry to the “liner”). However, occupants failed to launch the regular cruise line Yalta-Sochi.
In 2018, occupants introduced two hydrofoils between Sebastopol and Yalta, but only one hydrofoil “Kometa” functioned in 2020.
Besides that, three old Soviet ships work on local lines along the Southern Coast of Crimea. Piers for them are gradually deteriorating.
Current freight turnover of the Yalta port is less than it has been before the occupation. Losses of Yalta port are almost equal to those of the Feodosia port.
The Ukrainian state enterprise “Yevpatoria sea trading port” was specialized in extracting and loading the sand from the water area of Donuzlav Lake. It constituted almost 70% of the freight turnover of the port.
25% of the turnover was shaped by the automobile ferry Yevpatoria – Zonguldak. The ferry line stopped its work after the introduction of Crimean sanctions.
In 2013, the freight turnover of the Yevpatoria port reached 977 thousand tons. It fell by 3-5 times under the Russian occupation.
Barbarian sand mining for the large-scale construction of the occupation infrastructure significantly reduces sand beaches of the Western Coast of Crimea. Bakalska sandspit is de facto destroyed.
The State Unitary Enterprise “Sevastopol sea port” set up by occupants includes all civil objects of the city port infrastructure – Sevastopol sea trade and fishing ports, Captain Service of the Sevastopol sea fishing port and “Sevastopol branch “Derzhgidrografia”.
“Sevastopol sea port” was included into Ukrainian, EU and American sanction lists as it happened with “Crimean sea ports”.
In 2013, total freight turnover of the Sevastopol port reached 4,8 million tons. In 2020, it fell by 17 times. It is the data of the Association of Sea Trade Ports of the Russian Federation. “Sevastopol sea port” does not disclose information about its freight turnover.
The Federal State Unitary Port “Rosmorport” informs that six millions passengers were transported through all Russian sea terminals within seven months of 2021. The share of Sevastopol is astonishing – 5,8 million people. However, it is not about long distance sea transport, it is about public sea transport of Sevastopol – ferries and boats travelling between city harbors every day.
After the occupation, the Sevastopol sea port remained unprofitable.
Import and export
90% of transportation in Crimean ports is about freight turnover with Russia. Foreign trade constitutes around 10%. It is the trade with countries not supporting international Crimean sanctions.
For example, it is the supply of grain to Syria and other countries of the Near East.
The grain is loaded at the Sevastopol terminal of stevedore company «Avlita». It belonged to Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov. Then, it was sold to the Russian company “Morskie I neftegazovye proekty”. In its turn, this company is controlled by the giant of the Russian military industry – “Objedinennaja sudostroitelnaja korporatsia” \ United ShipBuilding Corporation. The corporation is included into Ukrainian and American sanction lists.
Another grain terminal is located in Kerch – it is the ABC terminal. Unlike Avlita terminal, its Russian owners were not sanctioned.
Products brought to occupied Crimea through its ports include ilmenite for titanium factory, Armyansk branch of joint stock company “Ukrainian Chemical Products” owned by oligarch Dmytro Firtash. Last year ilmenite was supplied through Kerch port “Kamysh-Burun”. In 2021, the raw material for the production of titanium dioxide was transported to Sevastopol and Feodosia ports.
Sanctions do work even in the case of the Armyansk titanium factory. This summer it did not function for two months, as it did not have enough ilmenite supply. Thus, there are fewer opportunities for violating sanction restrictions.
To sum up, Crimean ports are a remarkable example of the effectiveness of international sanctions introduced in response to the Russian attempt to annex Crimea. It is worth increasing the pressure – reforming the sanction legislation, expanding sanctions to cover all physical and legal persons somehow related to the occupation and introducing real responsibility for violating sanctions.