The re-election of Russia to a key maritime decision-making body would undermine the credibility of the International Maritime Organization because of Moscow’s “massive shelling” of ships and port infrastructure, Ukraine has claimed.

Ukraine’s representative to the United Nations body said that Russia could use its position to block regulations essential for the safety and security of the maritime industry. Russia holding a position of influence would “cast doubt on the integrity and impartiality” of the IMO, it claimed.

It cited the impacts of war on the industry, including damage to more than a dozen vessels, the blockade of shipping in the Black Sea, and the destruction of maritime training institutions since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Russia is bidding to rejoin the IMO’s executive body, the council, in a vote in December after an unbroken run of 63 years on the body. The council supervises the work of the IMO and monitors its work programme and budget.

But observers say that Russia risks being pushed out of the body with 11 countries contesting 10 seats as member states with the “largest interest in providing international shipping services”.

The last election in December 2021 was a formality, with just 10 candidates for the positions but Liberia, one of the world’s largest flag states, is standing this time.

IMO watchers say 30 to 40 nations could snub Russia’s election bid owing to the war. Russia complained earlier this month that a “minor group” of countries was playing the IMO for its own political benefit.

Moscow defended its record in setting and enforcing environmental safety rules and highlighted its role in building shipping infrastructure on the 5,600-km (3,480-mile) Northern Sea Route in the Arctic.

But Ukraine has sought to pile the pressure on Russia in the run-up to the vote by detailing the impact on shipping of the invasion in a document published on Tuesday.

Russia’s Black Sea threat

“The Russian Federation’s regular attacks by its occupying forces against ships trying to leave the area of hostilities have posed a serious threat to the navigational safety in the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait,” it said in the memo to IMO members.

It included reference to missile attacks, including one that damaged Bangladesh Shipping Corp’s 38,894-dwt Banglar Samriddhi (built 2018) while anchored at Olvia, more than 100 km from Odesa. One seafarer was killed. It also highlighted the attack on the Moldova-flagged, 2,200-dwt bunker vessel Millennial Spirit (built 1974), which was hit twice in Russian attacks five months apart.

It said the blowing up of the Kakhovka Dam in Kherson province in June had caused “irreparable harm” to shipping, making navigation impossible for at least five years in the lower reaches of the Dnipro River and damaging dozens of barges and other vessels.

“The International Maritime Organization is the body responsible for maintaining safety and security in the maritime industry, protecting the marine environment, and promoting the welfare of seafarers,” said the memo.

“Thus, there is a strong need for its council to be comprised of states that are committed to these goals and adhere to the principles and regulations set by the organization.”