First Ukrainian grain ship passes inspection in Turkey and heads for Lebanon

APTOPIX Russia Ukraine War
The Sierra Leone-flagged freighter Razoni sails under the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge after being inspected by Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN officials at the entrance to the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, Turkey, on Wednesday, August 3, 2022.

Emrah Gurel/AP

The first grain ship leave Ukraine and cross the Black Sea under a war time the deal passed inspection Wednesday in Istanbul and headed to Lebanon. Ukraine said another 17 ships were “loaded and awaiting clearance to leave”, but it was not yet clear when they might leave.

A joint civilian inspection team spent three hours checking the cargo and crew of the Sierra Leone-flagged vessel Razoni, which left Odessa on Monday with Ukrainian maize, according to a UN statement.

The Joint Coordination Center team included officials from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations, who last month signed agreements to create safe shipping lanes in the Black Sea to export agricultural products that Ukraine desperately needs as Russia’s war on its neighbor continues.

Ukraine is a major global grain supplier, but the war had blocked most exports, so the July 22 deal was aimed at facilitating food security around the world. Global food prices have soared in a crisis blamed on war, supply chain issues and COVID-19.

Although US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Razoni’s voyage a “significant milestone”, no other ships have left Ukraine in the past 48 hours and no explanation has been given for the delay. .

A UN statement said inspectors “obtained valuable information” from the crew of the Razoni on their journey through the Black Sea Maritime Humanitarian Corridor and that the coordination center was “addressing the procedures”.

Turkey’s Ministry of National Defense tweeted a picture of an inspector reaching the Razoni’s hold and touching some of its 26,527 tons of corn for chicken feed. The Razoni’s horn sounded as the inspectors left the ship, then it headed for Lebanon.

The checks aim to ensure that outgoing cargo ships only carry grain, fertilizer or food and not other goods, and that incoming ships do not carry weapons.

An estimated 20 million tonnes of grain – most of which is believed to be for livestock – has been stuck in Ukraine since the start of the 6-month war. Ukraine’s top diplomat said on Wednesday that more ships were ready to ferry much-needed grain and food out of the country’s Black Sea ports.

“Other ships are already ready to leave. They will leave from the ports that are part of the grain initiative according to the agreed timetable, and we hope that everything will be fine and that the Russian Federation will not take any measures that would destroy these agreements” , Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said at a joint press conference in Kyiv with his Estonian counterpart.

Kuleba said the UN-backed deal “is good for Ukrainian farmers, it’s good for Ukraine’s economy, and it’s good for the world.”

“It is now Ukraine that is literally saving the world from further food price increases and hunger in some countries,” he said.

However, a trip to the Black Sea carries significant risks due to the war. Two civilian ships hit explosive devices there last week near the Bystre estuary of the Danube, according to Bridget Diakun, data reporter at Lloyd’s List, a global maritime publication.

According to analysts, the first priority of the authorities is to get out the ships blocked for months in the three Ukrainian ports covered by the agreement. Sixteen grain-laden ships have been stuck in the ports of Odessa and Chernomorsk since the Russian invasion, according to Lloyd’s List.

The UN official who helped broker Russia’s deal with the UN to ensure unrestricted access to world markets for the country’s food and fertilizers said there were still hurdles to overcome.

UN trade chief Rebeca Grynspan told a UN news conference via video from Geneva on Wednesday that some hurdles Russia faces in terms of financing, insurance, shipping and transportation of its grain and fertilizers have been clarified by the United States and the European Union.

But she said there remained a major bottleneck: getting the private sector to accept that the UN-Russia deal will allow their companies to be involved in getting Russian grain and fertilizer to world markets. without the threat of sanctions.

There are no US or EU sanctions on food or fertilizer exports, but companies engaged in related fields have been reluctant to participate.

Russia’s war with Ukraine has had “a chilling effect on the private sector,” Grynspan said. “So a significant part of the private sector has gone out of the food and fertilizer business.”

Grynspan, secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, said grain and fertilizers were exported from Russia but at very high costs. She explained that half of the increase in grain prices comes from increased transport and logistics costs.

“That’s the pressure we want to alleviate,” she said.

Grynspan said the US and EU clarifications were being assessed by the private sector “as we speak.”

Grain stocks are expected to continue to grow. Despite the war, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has estimated that his country will harvest up to 67 million tonnes of grain this year, up from 60 million tonnes last year.

A senior official of a major Ukrainian agricultural association estimated that Ukraine would have about 50 million tonnes of grain to export this year.

Before the war, Ukraine exported about 5 to 6 million tons of grain per month, according to Denys Marchuk, deputy director of the All-Ukrainian Agrarian Council.

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