Ukrainian seafarers on an Estonian bulker have asked to leave the vessel ahead of a port call in Russia.

The 105,000-dwt capesize Vitus Bering (built 2019) has diverted to the Norwegian port of Vardo to make the change, Norwegian broadcaster NRK reported.

Most of the 15 seafarers on board are Ukrainian and NRK understands they did not want to travel to Murmansk.

The vessel is controlled by Platano Eesti of Estonia, which has been contacted for comment.

It is not known how long a change of crew will take.

And then there is the question of what will happen to the Ukrainian personnel.

Police in the Finnmark region are in contact with Vardo authorities and the port to establish the facts of the situation, the report said.

It is unclear if the crew members intend to claim asylum in Norway, according to section leader Solve Solheim at the border and immigration service.

Norwegian authorities will not send them to Ukraine, NRK said.

According to the police, the status of the seafarers cannot be clarified until they reach the quayside in Vardo.

No official reason for swap

Stale Sveinungsen, head of maritime traffic at the Vardo maritime traffic centre, told the TV station he was informed of the crew change on Wednesday morning.

The centre has not been told of a reason for the request.

“We have only been informed that it is desired to carry out a crew change outside Vardo, and it has been reported to the Norwegian Coastal Administration in the usual way,” the official said.

“As long as the boat is at a safe distance to the shore, it's fine. If they stay for a long time, they are ordered to lie outside 12 nautical miles, so that you have plenty of time to find resources if something should go wrong, or that the weather should change,” Sveinungsen added.

The Bahamas-flag bulker left Gdynia in Poland on 12 April.

It is believed about a dozen crew members will be replaced.