Warships and fishermen have spotted mines drifting in the Black Sea as far south as Romania and Turkey on three different occasions over the past four days, causing shipping organisations to issue warnings.
“Vessels navigating in the Black Sea should maintain lookouts for mines and pay careful attention to local navigation warnings,” the London P&I Club advised in a note on 30 March.
A few days earlier, the Turkish Shipowners Association warned that the entire northern Istanbul Strait should be considered a “risky area”.
Highlighting the alarm level, the Turkish government on 26 March banned night fishing in the area until further notice.
Authorities took that measure right after a Turkish fishing boat reported an unidentified floating object, similar to a mine or a bomb, near a bulker anchorage in the northern Istanbul Strait.
According to local correspondents of the London P&I Club, the device turned out to be an old mine that was defused by the Turkish Navy.
The navy deactivated another mine nearby, close to Bulgarian waters, on 28 March.
A third mine was destroyed one day later further north, 39 nautical miles (72 km) off Constantza in Romania, the London P&I Club said.
Strongly recommended …
According to Istanbul law firm Cavus & Coskunsu, the Turkish Navy has deployed two minesweeping ships to patrol the area.
“Under the circumstances, we strongly recommend vessels on the Black Sea coasts of Turkey to be on alert and closely monitor notices about sea mines and to keep lookout, while it may not be possible to observe sea mines during night time,” the firm said.
“NAVTEX messages and broadcast of Channel 16 should be monitored carefully … sharp and effective lookout should be performed … any suspicious objects should be reported to Channel 16 [and] the coordinates of suspicious objects, wind direction and force, current direction and force should be recorded and reported,” Cavus & Coskunsu cited the Turkish Shipowners Association as saying.
At least one commercial ship is believed to have been hit by a mine since Russia attacked Ukraine on 24 February.
The two countries’ navies have shut down much of the northern Black Sea coast to commercial shipping. Mines have been used to enforce the blockade.