Cargo Ships Sail to Ukraine Ports for First Time since Grain Deal Collapse

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This would be the first such use of key Black Sea shipping corridors since Russia withdrew from an agreement designed to guarantee safe passage for cargo ships carrying grain.

Two cargo ships arrived at a Ukrainian port Saturday, Ukrainian port authorities said, the first vessels to use a temporary corridor to sail into Black Sea ports and load grain for African and Asian markets since the collapse of a deal with Russia.

The ships reached Chernomorsk, one of three main ports near the city of Odesa, and were due to load 20,000 tonnes of wheat bound for world markets.

Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said the bulk carriers – Resilient Africa and Aroyat – sailed flying the flag of the Oceanic island nation of Palau and that their crew consisted of people from Ukraine, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Egypt.

Ukraine’s Agriculture Ministry said the vessels will deliver the wheat to Egypt and Israel.

Officials said it was the first time civilian ships had reached a Ukrainian port since the collapse of a deal with Russia ensuring the safety of vessels.

Previously the maritime corridor, which hugs the western Black Sea coast near Romania and Bulgaria, had only been used by ships departing from Ukraine. Five vessels have so far left the port of Odesa, using the corridor.

Ukraine unilaterally announced last month “temporary corridors” for civilian shipping after Russia said in July that it was abandoning a key deal brokered by the UN and Turkey that provided security guarantees for ships taking Ukrainian grain to world markets. 

Moscow said parts of the Black Sea grain deal allowing the export of its food and fertilisers had not been honoured and complained that Western sanctions were restricting its own agricultural exports. 

Since then, Russia has threatened to treat civilian ships sailing to Ukraine as potential military targets.

Earlier this week, the UK accused Russia of targeting one such vessel with multiple cruise missiles as it rested in the Ukrainian port of Odesa recently.

When Russia invaded in February 2022, its navy blockaded the country’s Black Sea ports –  trapping 20 million tonnes of grain that were meant for export.

This caused world food prices to soar and threatened to create shortages in Middle Eastern and African countries, which import significant amounts of food from Ukraine.

Some of these countries, including Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, and Ethiopia, remain in desperate need of humanitarian aid.

Russia has also launched frequent drone and missile attacks on the Ukrainian grain export infrastructure. It has repeatedly attacked the ports of Izmail and Reni, where much of Ukraine’s grain exports have been departing from since July, to try and disrupt operations.

The Black Sea grain deal was brokered in July 2022 to combat a global food crisis worsened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine and Russia are among the world’s top grain exporters.