Combat boats of the Russian Navy guarded the cargo ship as soon as it left the berth.  / Alexander Korolkov/RG

Combat boats of the Russian Navy guarded the cargo ship as soon as it left the berth. / Alexander Korolkov/RG

The Mariupol port is gradually recovering after being taken hostage by militants from the Azov regiment (a terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation – ed. note). Of course, the numerous destructions of the port are immediately evident, however, in addition to the Russian military, civilian personnel have already appeared at the facility. It cannot be said that work in the port is in full swing, but the first signs of a revival are already evident. The launch of the first foreign ship “Azov Concorde” is a clear confirmation of this.

The captain of the vessel, Ivan Babenkov, said that this Turkish dry cargo ship, whose home port in Malta, was restored from damage caused by Azov militants, a new crew of 14 people was recruited, and Russian sailors would serve the ship.

As it turned out, Captain Babenkov had previously sailed on the Azov Concorde as an assistant captain. He says it’s nice to be back on a familiar cargo ship already as a captain. “Thanks to the support and well-coordinated actions of the crew, the ship was restored quite quickly. Now it is completely seaworthy and ready for work,” said Babenkov.

According to the captain, the ship leaves the port without cargo and heads to the port of Novorossiysk for loading. The further route of the cargo ship will be decided by its owner. “We will take on the full cargo capacity – 8.5 thousand tons – and follow the destination,” the captain explained.

Before going to sea, Russian customs officers and border guards appear on the ship. There is a control check of the cargo ship and the crew. The sailors are then instructed by the Russian military. “Azov Concorde” is the first foreign ship to leave the port of Mariupol, along the sea humanitarian corridor, so attention is paid to every detail.

As the commander of the Novorossiysk naval base, Rear Admiral Viktor Kochemazov, said, he personally worked on the ship and instructed the captain and crew. The interaction between the crew of the dry cargo ship and the military at the stage of movement from Mariupol, meeting with warships of the Novorossiysk naval base, movement to the Kerch Strait and access to the Black Sea were mainly discussed.

“The anti-sabotage forces of the Novorossiysk naval base will be escorted along the harbor itself and the Mariupol canal. From the approach buoys of the Mariupol canal to the Kerch Strait, warships of the Novorossiysk base will be escorted and further along the Kerch Strait by ships of the FSB border department,” Viktor Kochemazov specified the details. route.

Combat escort of the Russian fleet will be provided to every vessel leaving the port of Mariupol via the humanitarian corridor

“We are waiting in our native Novorossiysk for the ship, with which we have worked very closely here,” Rear Admiral admonished the crew.

Finally, the ship went through all the necessary procedures. Two tug boats approached the cargo ship. The command sounds: “Give the mooring lines!” The boats pull the vessel away from the mooring wall, the Azov Concorde starts the engines and, accompanied by several Russian combat boats, heads out to sea.

According to the Russian military, the exit of ships to the sea was delayed primarily due to the fact that they received significant damage during the fighting in the port. Some were specifically put out of action by Ukrainian militants in order to prevent their release. The same “Azov Concorde” was badly damaged after militants broke into the ship and took hostage the crew, which consisted mainly of Russians. The nationalists destroyed the captain’s bridge, destroyed all navigational equipment and communications. On other ships in the port, the militants behaved no better. Several ships were completely destroyed. Now, as soon as the ships and crew are ready, foreign ships will start leaving Mariupol.

The demining of the port itself was completed by the Russian military on May 24, and on the same day the Russian Ministry of Defense announced the start of the sea humanitarian corridor. It took the shipowners almost a month to recruit crews, patch up their ships and prepare them for going to sea. It is planned that during June-July all foreign ships will leave Mariupol. The second ship to leave the port of Mariupol will be the Bulgarian cargo ship Tsarevna. Now the vessel is completing the technical preparation and paperwork in order to return to its homeland. Five foreign vessels still remain in the port of Mariupol: “Tsarevna” (Bulgaria), “Azburg” (Dominican Republic), “Smarta” (Liberia), “Blue Star” (Panama), “Lady Augusta” (Jamaica).

Combat escort of the Russian fleet will be provided to every vessel leaving the port through the humanitarian corridor. Anti-sabotage boats will inspect the approach channel at the exit from Mariupol for the presence of mines. Although there is no mine danger on the route now, prevention must be carried out without fail. Artillery boats will cover ships from the air while moving along the Mariupol canal.

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