BRUSSELS — The first grain-loaded ship to leave Ukraine’s Black Sea ports since the Russian invasion began in February enjoyed a smooth voyage on Tuesday and was set to reach a Turkish port later in the day as another ship prepared to follow suit. follow. a quiet first full day in what was a risky breakthrough for the warring factions.
The ship, the Razoni, loaded with 26,000 tons of corn, became the first ship to leave Odessa on Monday under an international agreement to allow the safe passage of such cargo. It was safely guided through Ukrainian waters by a tugboat, which completed its escort mission when the bulk carrier reached the edge of Ukraine’s maritime borders with Moldova to the south.
The ship, largely manned by Syrians, is en route to the Lebanese port of Tripoli, but will first dock in Turkey for an inspection. Local officials said it was scheduled to arrive there by midnight.
The Riva Wind, another bulk carrier moored in Odessa since February, is also loaded with 50,000 tons of feed grain and is preparing for its maiden voyage in nearly six months, the owners said in a statement on Tuesday. More than a dozen other ships are waiting for their cargo and instructions to set sail, Ukrainian authorities have said.
Under the international agreement breaking the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in intense diplomatic talks lasting three months, the ships will be inspected by joint teams in Turkish waters. Turkey has said it expects one ship per day to leave Ukrainian ports under the agreement.
Turkey’s defense ministry said the ships will likely be checked at the entrance and exit of the Bosphorus, where they will wait in line to enter one of the world’s most crucial trade waterways. Returning ships going empty to Ukrainian ports to be loaded with more grains will also be inspected before entering the Black Sea via the Turkish Bosphorus to make sure they are not carrying weapons, according to Russia’s demands.
The agreement, under which Russia committed to give the ships safe passage, was reached last month and aims to first bring more than 20 million tons of grains in storage facilities in Ukrainian ports around Odessa to world markets and then a predictable and steady flow of the crops.
The quantities are enormous and much needed all over the world. Ukraine is one of the world’s granaries, and shortages in the Middle East and Africa have led to rising inflation and bread shortages, leaving some of the world’s most vulnerable countries near famine.
Ukraine had installed mines along the coastline to suppress a possible Russian amphibious assault. Now, under the agreement to unblock its ports and resume grain trade, Ukraine is providing ship crews with guidance in navigating the mine waters, as well as escorts to assist them.
The shipments, if they proceed at a reasonable pace and safely, can make a significant difference in the global supply and thus in the price of key grains.
“If this corridor proves to be even reasonably successful, it will go a long way towards reducing grain shortages in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia,” said Michael Magdovitz, senior commodities analyst at Rabobank.
“We expect maize exports to more than double from nine million tons to 18 million to 22 million tons per year if the corridor is even slightly successful,” he added. “To put the additional nine million tons of corn exports in perspective, the US and EU nearly lost that amount of grain in the recent heat wave.”
Still, experts say that even as Ukraine’s grain exports are on the move again, a global food crisis fueled by wars, the economic devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic and extreme weather often exacerbated by climate change is likely to continue.
East Safak contributed reporting from Istanbul.