First grains ship leaves Ukraine for Lebanon in key milestone

Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov confirmed the departure and said there were 16 other ships in the greater Odesa region waiting for their turn to sail.
Image: Bloomberg

Ukraine made its first shipment of grain since Russia’s invasion, marking a small but crucial first step toward unlocking the millions of tons of grains piling up in the country and boosting global food supplies.

The Razoni, a cargo ship loaded with 26 527 tons of corn, left for Lebanon on Monday morning, according to the United Nations, which together with Turkey helped broker the deal to restart exports. Ukraine Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov confirmed the departure and said there were 16 other ships in the greater Odesa region waiting for their turn to sail.

Ukraine is one of the biggest wheat, corn and vegetable-oil suppliers and the loss of exports via its Black Sea ports has shaken the global food trade and raised the threat of a global food crisis. The Razoni represents a milestone achievement under the July 22 agreement to create safe shipping corridors through three of Ukraine’s ports, although it’s unclear how quickly exports can ramp up.

Scores of ships are stuck in the ports dotted along the Black Sea and are expected to begin moving out in “caravans” if all goes well. However, shipowners will have to secure insurance for cargoes and vessels, and also find enough crew to sail them. A Russian attack on Odesa’s sea port with cruise missiles hours after signing the deal raised questions earlier about its commitment.

“Ensuring that existing grain and foodstuffs can move to global markets is a humanitarian imperative,” a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement. “The secretary-general hopes that this will be the first of many commercial ships moving in accordance with the initiative.”

The World Food Programme is also planning to purchase, load and ship an initial 30,000 tons of wheat out of Ukraine on a UN-chartered vessel, with more details expected in the coming days, the UN said.

Ukraine expects to reach full throughput capacity for transporting agricultural goods within weeks, Kubrakov wrote.

The Razoni is expected to arrive in Istanbul on Tuesday, according to Turkey’s Defence Ministry. The agreement provided for monitoring by a joint coordination center in Istanbul, with representatives of all the parties.

© 2022 Bloomberg

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