A difficult and protracted re-birth
Back on the open sea – a Fratelli Cosulich ship no longer blockaded in Ukrainian port of Mariupol. Nine months can be rather a long time in shipping. That was the time it took the shipping line Vulcania, a subsidiary of the long-established Genoese company Fratelli Cosulich, to free a freighter that had been stuck in the port of Mariupol since the end of February. The ship, whose cargo was unloaded during the blockade, will now be overhauled in the Bulgarian port of Varna.
The Tzarevna and its sisterships haven’t been part of the portfolio of the Fratelli Cosulich Group (FCG) for long. It was only in mid-2021 that the shipping line, a Genoese player established in 1857, took over the three general cargo ships Stellina, Metallica and said Tzarevna, by acquiring 80% of the shares of the shipping agency Marlines, headquartered in Monfalcone in northeastern Italy.
On 24 February, when Russia invaded Ukraine, the Tzarevna was moored in the port of Mariupol. The ship, which sails under the Maltese flag, is officially registered to its Italian owners.
There was no possibility that the unit could set sail again in wartime. Worse still, the newly-formed Donetsk administration quickly made an offer to purchase the ship and its cargo. Media reports had it that the pro-Russian separatist leader Denis Pushilin considered the detained ships in Mariupol to be a suitable basis for the seceded region to establish its own maritime trading fleet.
A tug of war with the “authorities”
The cargo that the Tzarevna was carrying was also very significant – not only in wartime. It had 15,000 t of steel plates and slabs on board, destined for export to Italy. They had been produced by the Metallurgical Combine Azovstal iron and steel works, which has now been almost completely destroyed by the war.
According to Captain Hristo Papukshiev, the authorities concerned made an offer of USD 8 million for the ship and USD 12 million for the cargo. Fratelli Cosulich managing director Augusto Cosulich called it a “ridiculous price” and complained of “blackmail”.
Then the Italian diplomatic corps decided to step in. It couldn’t prevent the cargo from being unloaded, however, which also happened to other shipowners. The Tzarevna, which suffered some war damage, then sailed and will now be overhauled in the Bulgarian port of Varna.
The loss hit the FCG at a strong moment, however. Its annual figures for 2021 reported that turnover had increased by 39% year-on-year to EUR 1.5 billion, and its net profit by 96% to EUR 29.9 million. The ship can sail on.