The International Maritime Organization (IMO) said on Friday that it will try to ensure safe passage for commercial ships out of war-torn Ukraine.

In a strongly-worded statement issued after an extraordinary session to discuss the issue, the UN’s maritime agency “strongly condemned” Russia’s invasion of its neighboring country.

The IMO also said it “deplored” Russian attacks and seizures of commercial vessels said to pose “a grave danger to life and serious risk to safety of navigation and the marine environment” in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

At least five ships have been damaged since warfare broke out in the region with one seafarer killed, and others injured.

On top of that, more than 40 large commercial vessels have been trapped in Ukrainian ports, with their crews fearing for their lives and their owners faced with eorbitant war risk premiums.

More than 200 seafarers, mostly from the Philippines, were evacuated from the country since. Problems, however, remain and several shipowner organisations, including Intercargo, have urged national governments to take action.

To address the situation, the IMO council held an emergency meeting on 11 March, at the end of which it proposed setting up a “blue safe maritime corridor” to evacuate ships from the area.

To that end, IMO secretary Kitack Lim was authorised to “collaborate with relevant parties and take… immediate actions”.

Ships should be allowed to sail from Ukrainian ports without threat of attack, the IMO said.

If they can’t do so for fear of mines or other hazards, humanitarian corridors should be set up to allow seafarers to return by land.