Twelve seafarers have been found dead, and nine more are missing after a botched ship-to-ship LNG transfer operation and subsequent fire in Crimea’s Kerch Strait.
Vessel Candy was carrying 9 Turkish and 8 Indian crew members, and the other involved vessel Maestro, carried 7 Turkish seafarers as well as 7 Indians and one Libyan. The bodies of four dead Turkish nationals were repatriated today, while the missing seafarers also reportedly include four Turkish nationals.
The two tankers, both owned by Turkish company Milenyum Denizcilik Gemi and flagged in Tanzania, were undertaking a ship-to-ship transfer of LNG. Russian investigators said that a violation of safety protocols during the transfer resulted in a subsequent explosion and fire.
With the two vessels on fire but afloat, Russian coast guard are searching the blaze and surrounding waters for the six missing seafarers, with rescued crew from both ships having been taken to the Kerch City Hospital in Crimea for treatment.
The Russian Federal Agency of Maritime and River Transportation (Rosmorrechflot) deployed salvage and rescue vessel Spasatel Demidov to extinguish the fire.
Kerch Strait, annexed by Russia in 2014 along with the rest of Crimea, has been a trouble hotspot in recent months after a standoff between warring Russian and Ukranian naval vessels in late November, during which Russian boats barred the Ukranians entry to the Strait, ramming and boarding the Ukranian boats and capturing and imprisoning 24 Ukranian sailors.