MARIUPOL, UKRAINE — A cargo ship registered in Dominica by a Fairhaven-based company has been attacked and sunk by Russian forces in the beseiged Ukrainian port of Mariupol, according to a release from the Commonwealth of Dominica Maritime Administration.

The vessel registration company — headquartered at 32 Washington St. in Fairhaven — stated that one crew member was wounded after the M/V Azburg was "indiscriminately attacked, sank and completely destroyed while at berth" in Mariupol.

According to the release, the ship was intentionally hit by two missile shells on April 3 before being "heavily fired upon by Russian armed forces" again on April 4 at around 10:40 p.m. local time.

Crew on the vessel reported shelling, bombing and repeated missile hits, which caused a fire in the engine room, the release stated.

One person was wounded and received treatment after crew members evacuated, taking refuge on board neighboring vessels, according to the release.

An image of the Azburg on fire after an attack by Russian forces at the port of Mariupol, Ukraine
Courtesy Commonwealth of Dominica Maritime Administration
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The company stated that the ship's crew are still "under an immense amount of fear and stress" and require immediate evacuation from the area, although communication is "very difficult" and no further information is available.

The port area of Mariupol has come under heavy fighting and intensive shelling as Russian forces continue to bombard the city, which has been largely destroyed in the 41 days since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The Fairhaven firm reported that as a result of the attack, the Azburg sank at berth 16 in the Ukrainian port city.

According to publicly available shipping data, the 130-meter cargo vessel arrived in Mariupol on Feb. 22 after leaving Mykolaiv on the other side of the Crimean peninsula on Feb. 13.

It stopped briefly in Burgas, Bulgaria before heading to Mariupol through the Kerch Strait, both sides of which have been controlled by Russia since the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

The ship sailed under the flag of Dominica, a small Caribbean island, and was registered by the Massachusetts company.

In its statement the Dominica Maritime Administration urged the Russian Federation to withdraw its forces from Ukraine and allow the "immediate evacuation of all civilians" from the port, including the entire crew of the Azburg.

"People...are likely to be deeply traumatized by the current events," the statement continued, noting that "Normal safety requirements and (port) emergency response plans are currently not fully operational or completely absent."

“An act of war is an act of cowards, bullies and fragile men," stated Fairhaven resident Eric Dawicki, the firm's Deputy Administrator of Maritime Affairs and also its listed president/director.

"The indiscriminate shelling of a merchant vessel with a civilian crew with no place to seek refuge is the lowest of lows," he added. "It is an act of war against all of humanity and basic human rights."

"This Administration deplores these attacks on a Commonwealth of Dominica flagged vessel and insists that the emotionally and intellectually stunted men behind this heinous act look themselves closely in the mirror and discover how to end such senseless motives."

The Northeast Maritime Institute headquarters in Fairhaven
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Dawicki is also the president and CEO of the Northeast Maritime Institute, a private maritime college headquartered at the same Washington Street premises as the Dominica Maritime Administration.

The connection between the two groups is unclear.

Dawicki could not immediately be reached for further comment.

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