Russia-Türkiye Ferry Service to Re-start
Image: Yasin Caglayan/Shutterstock
According to recent press releases, May 1st will see the re-introduction of the ferry link between Sochi in southern Russia and Trabzon in northeastern Türkiye. This Black Sea routing was very popular in the 1990s. However, following the Russia-Georgia war of 2008, the service became the subject of restrictions, and passenger numbers slumped until it stopped altogether in 2014. Now, in the wake of the Ukraine conflict, Turkish authorities consider that demand from Russian visitors will be substantial due to the cost limitations of air travel and the sanction-related closure of some countries to Russians heading further afield. The port has also stipulated that petty traders will be allowed to carry up to US$10,000 worth of goods without suffering duties or penalties in a bid to promote economic exchange. The news has been especially welcomed in the breakaway republic of Abkhazia, which once had its own ferry connection to Trabzon, and where the population’s overland access to Türkiye has been blocked by the need to transit through Georgia from which the republic has made an acrimonious split. Abkhaz’s independence is only recognized by Russia, Syria, and three other UN countries.
Whether the ships actually start on May 1st remains to be seen – the service has been under discussion since at least 2021. However, according to several news agencies, the final agreement documents are due to be signed today (April 6th,2023), timed to coincide with the visit to Türkiye of Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister.