The difficulties of shipping Russian food imports and exports

In the days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, container shipping lines were among the many companies worldwide distancing themselves from the military conflict and cutting off links to the Russian economy. Germany’s Hapag-Lloyd was the first of the big European carriers to announce a booking suspension for Russian cargo.

On March 1 came a flurry of moves by the top three: Denmark’s Maersk announced a booking suspension that initially made exceptions for food, medicine and humanitarian aid. France’s CMA CGM also suspended bookings but made no mention of exceptions for essential goods. Switzerland’s MSC halted bookings temporarily, too, and made exceptions for food, medicine and humanitarian aid — adding that it would screen these orders and ensure compliance with international sanctions.

According to, the effects of cargo suspensions were visible almost immediately as Russia’s container trade volumes plunged.

MSC delivers Russian food while navigating sanctions
A month after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Andriana III—a 700-foot container ship operated by Mediterranean Shipping Co.—changed course and began transporting goods to and from Russia’s Black Sea port of Novorossiysk.

In early July the vessel, which had not serviced Russia since 2019, completed its eighth trip between the Egyptian port of Alexandria and Novorossiysk since the Feb. 24 invasion, according to a Bloomberg News analysis of publicly available ship-tracking data.

While it’s not uncommon for merchant ships to be reassigned, the Andriana III changed routes after Geneva-based MSC said March 1 that it would voluntarily halt bookings for Russian cargo and focus on delivering essential goods. Such cargo includes food, medicine and humanitarian aid, and MSC said it’s trying to ensure compliance with international sanctions rules for handling Russian exports or imports.



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