Problems of shipping between Ukraine and the autonomous republic of Crimea

On April 15, 2014, the Supreme Council (Verkhovna Rada) of Ukraine enacted Law of Ukraine No.1207-VII “On Assurance of Rights and Freedoms and Legal Regime on the Temporarily Occupied Territory of Ukraine” (hereinafter referred to as “the Law”) which came into force on April 27, 2014. By virtue of Article 3 of the Law land and maritime domain of the Autonomous Republic with all objects (establishments, private and state-run enterprises, their premises, etc.) located thereon, sea ports including, are recognized to be temporarily occupied territory.

The Law introduced a special legal regime to be applied on the above-mentioned territories. On the whole as a result of the said special regulations there appeared certain peculiarities in the sphere of merchant shipping in this area, as well as ample grounds for apprehending potential negative consequences and complications. By this we mean various obstacles which can be encountered by the foreign-flagged ships intending to enter the territories under Ukrainian jurisdiction after calling at one of the Crimean ports without getting this matter agreed-on with Ukrainian state authorities or in breach of the order prescribed by the Law.

Though calling at a Ukrainian port after visiting a Crimean port is not officially banned now but the Law provides for a rather complicated procedure of entering/departing these territories for citizens of Ukraine, foreign citizens and/or persons of no citizenship. In brief, the foreigners and persons without citizenship are only allowed to enter/depart temporarily occupied territory after obtaining special permission and only through check-points with getting all the documents required for crossing the border processed (see Art.10 of the Law).

The above-described procedure shall also be complied with by masters and crew members of seagoing vessels. Breach of the procedure may entail negative consequences to and penalties to be imposed on the ships master and crew members, as well as on a ship and a ship-owner: a ship can be temporarily detained to carry on investigative actions and later on even confiscated under criminal procedure. The crew members could be banished from Ukraine and forcibly returned to the territory of Crimea or repatriated to their country of citizenship and be henceforth forbidden to enter Ukraine. Besides, depending on their fault and danger their transgression presents to the country an administrative fine can be imposed on them and moreover, they can be detained to be brought to criminal responsibility in the form of imprisonment for up to 3 years with seizure of a transport vehicle (a ship, in this case) on which they have arrived.

To avoid all above-mentioned problems on the present stage we would recommend to all owners and operators of seagoing ships to temporarily refrain from sending the ships in their possession, operation or management to the Crimean ports or to arrange for such calls only after conferring with shipping agents in Ukraine and with the approval of the State Border Service and other competent authorities of Ukraine and be careful to comply with all procedures and requirements, which, as far as we know, are still only being worked up.

Andrey Yanitskiy, Lawyer