The Philippines is stepping up a rescue mission for seafarers stranded in Ukraine, and has so far managed to evacuate 21 of its mariners from the country amidst the ongoing Russian invasion.

The 21 made up the all-Filipino crew of bulk carrier S-Breeze, and their evacuation was facilitated by the assistance of Philippine Honorary Consul in Moldova in coordination with the Philippine Embassy in Budapest.

Bulk carrier S-Breeze has been in drydock for repairs at the Ilyichevsk shipyard in the port of Odessa, Ukraine, since January 27. The crew had been staying in the vessel’s accommodations with enough provisions, but they asked for help with repatriation because of the risks posed by the invasion.

The Philippine government said that there are now 27 Filipinos who have been evacuated from Ukraine to Moldova. Both the Philippine Embassy in Budapest and the PH Consulate in Chisinau are in the process of arranging the repatriation of the seafarers to Manila at the earliest possible time.

Reports indicate the S-Breeze crew were among many Filipino seafarers caught in the Russian invasion of Ukraine where merchant ships continue to be targeted in the escalating war.

Among those caught in the crossfire include 21 Filipino crewmembers of the Namura Queen, a cargo ship that was hit by rocket fire last week. Another 11 Filipino crewmembers were aboard the cargo vessel Yasa Jupiter, which was attacked during the opening phase of the invasion. 

The Philippines is the world’s largest supplier of seafarers to international shipping, and nearly 220,000 Philippine nationals shipped out for work overseas in 2020, according to the Philippine Maritime Industry Authority (Marina).

Source: The Maritime Executive