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LONDON/DHAKA: An Estonian-owned cargo ship sank on Thursday off Ukraine’s major Black Sea port of Odessa, hours after a Bangladeshi vessel was hit by a missile or bomb at another port, underlining the growing peril to merchant shipping following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Many shipping firms have suspended sailings to affected Black Sea ports and other terminals in Ukraine, with insurance premiums for voyages soaring in recent days. At least three commercial ships have been hit by projectiles since Feb. 24.

Two crew members from the Marshall Islands-flagged and Estonian-owned Helt cargo ship were in a life raft at sea while four others were unaccounted for, Igor Ilves, managing director of Tallinn-based manager Vista Shipping Agency, told Reuters.

“The vessel has finally sunk,” he said. “Two of the crew are in a raft on the water and four others are missing. I don’t know where they are at the moment.”

Ilves said the vessel might have struck a mine.

“It’s a big problem - nobody can help them. The Ukrainians cannot go to sea because it is under Russian control.”

Ilves said the crew comprised four Ukrainian nationals, one Russian and one Belarusian.

NATO’s Shipping Center warned on Wednesday that there was “a high risk of collateral damage on civilian shipping in the northwestern part of the Black Sea”, which included mines.

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