Russian “partial mobilization” a blow to crewing. Watch Captains you hire!

Putin declared on Sep 21 “partial military mobilization” in Russia, claiming to draw, steadily, some 300,000 reservists. First of all, there’s no big puzzle or mystery to solve, Kremlin has to do it, in desperate attempt to “save the day” and not lose the war. So-called “partial mobilization” is the only available solution left, plus probably, deployment of nukes (well, probably, but very unlikely).
What does it mean for shipping? It means, that Russian sea labor is suddenly in a worse situation than Ukrainian sea labor, where all healthy adults are restricted in their movements and can’t leave the country. It’s a very slow process in Ukraine, but there’s a progress, so Ukrainians will be able to leave Ukraine for contract job on board of foreign vessels (legally speaking, they are already allowed to do it, but slow are the wheels of bureaucracy).

With Russia, it’s much, much worse. Starting yesterday, people are already drafted or stopped at regions’ borders – I have first-hand witness reports to it. Russia from legal point of view, is a chaos, a wild jungle. So according to “partial mobilization” plan, many civilians with their draft status, legally speaking, can’t be drafted, but they’re already drafted or restricted in their movements. Nobody cares whether it’s legal or not, least of all regional authorities (responsible to Kremlin only, not to their people) and military command. They must report asap their draft achievements or failures, their careers and literally, lives, depend on it, so of course they’ll try to seize and send to barracks as many people as possible.
Russian seamen – a lot of them – already figured that out. Sign-offs hesitate in transit ports and airports, musing what to do best, to return home or to try to wait force-majeure out outside Russia. For management and crewing agencies, this “partial mobilization” is a very big problem. Many (majority) Russian seamen won’t be able to leave the country, so for all intents and purposes, they’re out of business. There will be problems with sign-on and sign-off operations, too. Russians aren’t welcomed in many countries already, some EU countries ban all Russian, whatever the purposes of their visits are. Russians are toxic now, seamen being no exception.

There’s another problem, better attended to. Many management agencies complement the crews without any thought giving to possible outcome of Ukrainian-Russian mixed crews working and living on board the ship for months. Russian and Ukrainian sailors mostly, much to their credit, are wise enough to leave the war and politics on shore, when they board the ship. As they put it – “no politics, no religious, no cultural discussions while we’re on board and have to work and live together”. But still, it would be much wiser practice for crewing agency, to avoid whenever possible, mixed crews or worse, crews with many seamen of one nationality, and just one seaman of another nationality.

Management, as well, should pay a special attention to Masters of both nationalities, checking their psychological condition, their attitude in the ongoing war, whether they’re active protagonists of this or that side, or moderate, sensible people, placing their professional duties above all other considerations. For example – I know several Russian Captains, behaving very actively in their social net accounts, and re-posting most disgusting types of war propaganda. Can they keep themselves from letting their true beliefs out, while commanding mixed crew? They and their families are safe from horrors of the war, but it’s a different story with Ukrainians. Imagine Ukrainian sailor under command of such a Captain, who has got very bad news from his home – relatives were killed by bomb or shell, or worse than that (say, teen girl seized by a gang of “soldiers”). What will be his reaction and respond, if Russian Captain goes on with his propaganda? Nobody can tell, it’s just that, it’s unpredictable. Overall, Captains with explicit political beliefs are essentially, a walking ticking time bomb.
Bad times indeed, so it’s better and safer to be watchful and attentive to others, understanding their woes and their temper.



My name is Mikhail Voytenko, I’m Russian, professional merchant marine navigator, by education and former experience. I own and run Maritime Bulletin website for more than 10 years. I've been involved in solving a number of piracy hijack cases, including the hijack of ro-ro FAINA, loaded with tanks. It was me who made public, and unravel, freighter ARCTIC SEA mystery. I've been also closely involved in a number of maritime disaster, one of them being MSC FLAMINIA major fire.