Two ships headed to Ukraine’s Black Sea ports to load grain

KYIV (Reuters) – Two cargo vessels were headed to Ukrainian ports on Saturday, Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov told Reuters, becoming first ships to use a temporary corridor to sail into Black Sea ports and load grain for African and Asian markets.

Ukraine last month announced a “humanitarian corridor” in the Black Sea to release ships trapped in its ports since the start of the war in February 2022 and to circumvent a de facto blockade after Russia abandoned a deal to let Kyiv export grain.

Five vessels have so far left the port of Odesa, using the corridor which hugs the western Black Sea coast near Romania and Bulgaria.

Ukraine, a leading global food producer and exporter, also wants to use the corridor for its food exports.

The bulk carriers “Resilient Africa” and “Aroyat” were making their way through the Black Sea to Ukrainian ports to load almost 20,000 tons of wheat for Africa and Asia, Kubrakov said.

Shipping data showed both vessels on routes in the northern Black Sea.

“While the UN is not involved in the movement of those vessels, we welcome all efforts for the resumption of normal trade, especially of vital food commodities that help supply and stabilize global food markets,” a UN official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

“We continue our efforts to facilitate exports for agricultural products from both Ukraine and the Russian Federation.”

The loadings are a test of Ukraine’s ability to reopen shipping lanes at a time when Russia is trying to re-impose its de facto blockade, having abandoned the grain deal in July. Moscow has launched frequent drone and missile attacks on the Ukrainian grain export infrastructure.

The Black Sea grain deal was brokered by the U.N. and Turkey 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.

Ukraine made several attacks in recent days using sea drones and missiles on Russia’s Black Sea naval fleet in and around the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014.

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Olena Harmash and Michelle Nichols; Editing by Ros Russell)