Russian rescuers are trying to reach sailors who jumped overboard. Fourteen people have so far been rescued, TASS reported.
The fires started during a ship-to-ship transfer of liquefied petroleum gas in what was said to be rough seas, with both vessels having disabled their satellite tracking devices that are designed to help avoid collisions. They were named as the Kandy (Venice), with a crew of 17 from Turkey and India, and Maestro, with 14 sailors.
The fire broke out when one vessel was transferring fuel to another, Russian maritime agency spokesman Alexei Kravchenko said, adding that this had then forced several crew members to jump overboard. Rescue workers reportedly witnessed a further three people struggling in the water, who most likely had drowned.
Russia-based Global Vision Group, owned by a Syrian national, worked with a subsidiary of the Russian Ministry of Energy, Promsyryoimport, to facilitate the shipments of fuel, including cargoes from Iran, the US said in November.
Two vessels, the Venice and the Maestro, are possible targets for the US sanctions
Russian media reported on Tuesday morning that at least 14 people had died as a result of the fire and six were unaccounted for. Twelve of the ships’ crew, mainly Turkish and Indian citizens, had been saved, Russian state-run newswire TASS reported. Authorities in the Crimean city of Kerch are now preparing to receive the victims.
The crew members were sailing in “neutral waters” in the Black Sea when the incident occurred, authorities said.
The names of the two vessels, the Venice and the Maestro, both appear on a US treasury list as possible targets for sanctions over petroleum shipments to Syria.
The US tightened sanctions against Syria back in 2011 in response to what it said was President Bashar al-Assad’s “continued atrocities” committed against the Syrian people.