Romanian authorities said an explosion occurred on a ship close to its Danube port of Sulina on Wednesday, deploying a minesweeper ship with divers to scout the area for mines.
Members of the Romanian rescue services evacuated 12 crew members on board the Togo-registered cargo ship and brought them to shore for medical checks following the explosion, early Wednesday.
“A ship under the flag of Togo, transporting cement, reported an explosion in the engine room and asked for the ship to be evacuated,” Romania’s Transport Minister said in a statement.
With Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian seaports, the Danube river has become a lifeline for the export of Ukrainian grain.
The 90-metre-long ship was seven sea miles (13 kilometres) off the Romanian port of Sulina, where the Danube river flows into the Black Sea.
The cargo ship had arrived in Sulina on 12 September and was waiting to enter the Bystroye canal, on the Ukrainian side, the ministry said.
Romania’s Naval Authority sent a minesweeper and a group of specialised divers to the scene, with helicopters on standby to intervene if needed, the defence ministry said.
Since Russia launched its war against Ukraine in February 2022, the danger posed by sea mines has sharply increased in the Black Sea, with about 80 devices discovered in Romania’s territorial waters.
For now, however, there are “no clues” that a mine caused the explosion, a naval forces spokesman told reporters.
“The crew suggested that the explosion came from inside the ship,” he added.
According to local media, the crew members are of Syrian, Turkish, Lebanese and Egyptian nationality.