The construction of a bridge between Russia and the annexed Crimea poses a threat to Ukraine’s national security, as it may lead to a reduction in trade in Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov due to restrictions on navigation in the region, as announced in statement released by the public research organization Center for Army, Conversion, and Disarmament Studies (CACDS).
“More recently, statements were made by the political leadership of the Russian Federation, as well as representatives of companies involved in the construction of the Kerch Strait Bridge, that this will not affect freedom of navigation in the Black and Azov Seas, and, subsequently, the volume of cargo passing through Mariupol and Berdyansk, Ukraine’s ports on the Sea of Azov. The reality has turned out to be quite the opposite. Moscow has established significant restrictions on the dimensions of the vessels that will be allowed to pass through the Kerch Strait after the installation of the railroad arch,” states the report.
Hence, because the bridge is 35 meters above the sea, the overall height of a vessel cannot be more than 33 meters. This means that Panamax type ships cannot pass through the strait, whose overall clearance is 37.5 meters.
“Calculations by Ukrainian experts indicate that the losses to Ukrainian ports due to this one restriction will be huge. In the port Mariupol, this will affect about 25-30% of all cargo! For example, about one million tons of pig iron supplied each year under contracts with U.S. customers are at risk,” experts say.
It is also noted that Russia is unilaterally closing the strait in connection with the installation of the arch. The strait was closed on August 8, and continues closed in the period from August 28 to 31. According to experts, the cost of a ship to wait one day for the strait to open is 20 thousand dollars.
“Given the fact that about 70-90 vessels pass through the strait every day, it is not difficult to calculate the losses that directly affect both the freight costs and the economic attractiveness of the region as a whole,” the report said.
In addition, CACDS says special attention needs to be given to Ochakiv.
“For Russia, symbolism has always been of great importance. There are many historical events connected with Ochakiv that are associated with the conquest of the Crimea by the Russian Empire. We see the tone in the Russian media about the construction of new infrastructures related to the Ukrainian Navy there with the help of the United States,” experts warn.
As was previously reported, in June it became known that the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation was preparing a bill to close the Kerch Strait in August-September 2017 for the installation of the arch of the Kerch Strait Bridge.
The Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine has filed a complaint with the International Maritime Organization, because such actions on the part of the Russian Federation could cause significant damage not only to the safety of shipping and navigation, but also to the national security of Ukraine.
In May, the Prosecutor's Office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea reported that environmental violations during Russia’s construction of the bridge across the Kerch Strait could turn the Sea of Azov into a gulf of the Black Sea. Construction could lead to a regional ecological catastrophe.
The total cost of the Kerch Strait Bridge is 228 billion rubles ($3.91 billion USD), and the general contractor is Stroygazmontazh, co-owned by Arkady Rotenberg. Transport across the strait will be over two parallel bridges. The bridge should be open to road traffic at the end of 2018, and the railway will be operational in 2019.