Security Challenges In The Black Sea Amid Winter Weather Disruptions


  • Inclement weather in the northern Black Sea during the winter months has not only hampered shipping operations but also raised questions about the impact on security threats.
  • Despite a nearly 17% increase in recorded incidents in 2023, the distribution was uneven, with heightened focus following the Russian withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
  • Winter weather closures and reduced operational capacity at Black Sea ports, coupled with concerns about drifting mines, added complexities.
  • While fewer incidents in winter could partly be weather-related, the Black Sea remains a frontline battleground, suggesting potential operational escalations once weather conditions improve.

Winter Weather and Shipping Operations

The winter weather in the northern Black Sea region has presented challenges for shipping operations, impacting both civilian and military activities. The complexities arise from operational closures and reduced capacity at various Black Sea ports due to adverse weather conditions. This has led to disruptions, raising questions about the extent to which weather-related challenges have influenced security threats in the region.

Uneven Distribution of Incidents in 2023

The overall incidents recorded in the Black Sea witnessed a nearly 17% increase in 2023 compared to the previous year. However, the distribution of these incidents was uneven, with a notable rise following the Russian withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative in July 2023. The region experienced fewer incidents toward the end of 2023, coinciding with increased trade through the Ukraine ‘Humanitarian Corridor,’ initially part of the UN-backed Black Sea Grain Initiative.

Challenges Posed by Drifting Mines and Security Measures

Concerns have been raised about the impact of winter weather on drifting mines in the Black Sea. The breach of the Nova Kakovka dam in June 2023 resulted in land mines entering the Black Sea, posing threats to maritime activities. The incident involving the bulk carrier VYSSOS near the Sulina canal on December 27, 2023, highlighted the persistent threat of mines. Collaborative efforts, such as the tri-party memorandum of understanding between Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria in January 2024 for mine-clearing operations, indicate ongoing challenges in the region.

Assessment and Future Outlook

While the reduction in incidents during the recent winter months may be influenced by local weather conditions, the Black Sea remains a frontline battleground. Operational restrictions imposed during adverse weather are likely to be lifted as conditions improve, potentially leading to increased security threats. Both Ukraine and Russia continue their attempts to exert pressure and control in areas of interest, emphasizing the importance of general caution and preparedness for potential escalations in naval and maritime operations. The security landscape in the Black Sea region remains dynamic and warrants continuous monitoring.


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Source: Risk Intelligence