First grain ship from Ukrainian port passes through the Bosphorus to help ease global food crisis

First grain ship from Ukrainian port passes through the Bosphorus to help ease global food crisis

August 4, 2022 0 By Ellen Novack

The Razoni left Odesa on the Black Sea early on Monday carrying 26,527 tonnes of corn and anchored at the entrance of the Bosphorus Strait on Tuesday night.

The shipment was made possible after Turkey and the United Nations brokered a grain and fertiliser export agreement between Moscow and Kyiv last month – a rare diplomatic breakthrough in a drawn-out war of attrition.

The ship entered the Bosphorus Strait around 1130 GMT, following the completion of the inspection by Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and U.N. personnel working at a Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) in nearby Istanbul.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Lebanon, Ihor Ostash, said the Razoni was expected to arrive in Tripoli port in four to five days.

The JCC said the ship was cleared after a three-hour inspection. Information from the crew about the Razoni’s journey will be used to fine-tune procedures to continue the safe passage of commercial vessels under the deal, it added.

Reuters quoted a senior Turkish official who requested anonymity as saying that three ships may leave from any of the three Black Sea ports of Odesa and nearby Pivdennyi and Chornomorsk every day, instead of the previously planned one. The official said the initial deal is for 120 days, but could be extended by a month at a time if exports are not completed due to weather conditions or problems with inspections. U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said about 27 ships were covered by the export deal, according to Reuters.

Here is a video of the Razoni leaving the port of Odesa on Monday:

Denys Marchuk, deputy chair of the Ukrainian Agrarian Council, reported during a news briefing on Wednesday that Ukraine would like to expand the deal to include ports in the Mykolaiv region, to the east of Odesa. However, this area is much closer to the front line of the war.

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken welcomed the news that the first grain ship departing Ukraine had safely crossed the Black Sea. He commended the efforts of the U.N. and Turkey “to get Ukraine’s grain to those suffering from food insecurity.”

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Last Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Odesa to observe preparations for the first shipment of grain since the Feb. 24 Russian invasion and subsequent blockade of Ukrainian ports. Zelenskyy told reporters that Ukraine’s military is committed to the ships’ safety, adding, “It is important for us that Ukraine remains the guarantor of global food security.”

On Monday, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the departure of the first Ukrainian grain shipment since the Russian blockade began is a “day of relief for the world, and especially our friends in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. … Ukraine has always been a reliable partner and will remain one should Russia respect its part of the deal.”

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The deal brokered by Turkey and the U.N. also allows Russia to export grain and fertilizer through the Black Sea, even though sanctions remain in place. The Russian shipments will also be inspected by the Joint Coordination Center (JCC). Ukraine and Russia separately signed the agreement in Istanbul on July 22.

A day after the grain export agreement was signed, Russia launched a Kalibr missile attack on the Odesa port. The attack raised some concerns that Russia might not honor the agreement it had just signed.

Ukrainian air defense systems shot down two missiles, but two more hit the port’s infrastructure facilities, Ukrainska Pravda reported. The Ukrainian military said a fire broke out in a pumping station, but did not cause any significant damage to the port infrastructure. The attack did not impact the grain storage facility.

The deal involved compromises on both sides, but was more of a setback for Russia. Russia had been accused of using food as a weapon in order to exert pressure on Ukraine to make concessions, and for its Western allies to ease sanctions imposed after Russia invaded its neighbor. But as the war continued, Russian leader Vladimir Putin had to take into consideration Russia’s extensive interests in Africa, where countries friendly to Russia were demanding a resumption of Ukrainian grain shipments on which they depended.

Under the deal, Ukraine agreed to have Turkish and U.N. staff monitor the loading of grain onto ships at Ukrainian ports. Ukraine was not obliged to define its waters off the Black Sea coast, but instead establish a safe corridor through which the ships could navigate.

Once in Turkish waters, the JCC—with representatives of Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, and the U.N.—was established to inspect the cargoes. Russia and Ukraine agreed not to attack the cargo ships or ports involved in the grain shipments.

Ukraine apparently did not raise the issue of grain stolen from Russian-occupied territories in the talks to reopen grain shipments from its ports. The Guardian reported that the U.S. and EU reassured businesses carrying Russian agricultural goods, particularly fertilizer, that they would not be violating sanctions ahead of signing the deal.



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