January 5, 2016:
In a move reminiscent of early 1942 in the Pacific, when American officers were ordered to buy or charter any ocean going shipping they could find to aid in mobilizing forces to halt the Japanese advance, Russia carried out a similar program along the Black Sea coast starting in April 2015. Without any publicity the Russian government told ship brokers to buy up any seaworthy shipping they could find and turn them over to Russian “shipping companies” where the ships were given new names, Russian crews and plenty of work moving military cargo from Russia to Syria. At least a dozen of these older, but still functional, freighters are now regularly moving “civilian cargo”. Military cargo is another matter but the Russians are apparently pretty confident the Turks won’t try and get really strict with commercial shipping passing through Turkish waters. The 1936 Montreux Convention regulates commercial shipping and naval (military) passage through the narrow (Turkish controlled) straits that are the only way into or out of the Black Sea. The big restrictions are on warships, but naval support ships can be restricted as well. This the Russian creation of a “Ghost Fleet” to deal with this.