Ukraine Sets Record Exports Despite Russia Suspending Shipping Deal
ln its latest act of defiance, Ukraine announced it set a new daily record for grain shipments two days after Russia announced it was officially suspending its participation in the grain export agreement and threatened new blockades in response to Ukraine’s attacks on Russian naval forces in occupied Crimea. Despite the Russian announcement, the United Nations, Turkey, and Ukraine were able to agree on a plan for the vessels to proceed today, October 31, while diplomats and UN officials worked to broker a new agreement. The existing effort was for 120-days and is due to expire in mid-November.
Efforts to continue to move the grain and foodstuffs along the humanitarian corridor have become increasingly shaky in recent days as Russian officials expressed their concerns over what they call the failures of the agreement. Russia has consistently complained that it has not had the same access to ship its grain and fertilizer products while saying it had been told the emphasis would be to send the grain to countries facing food shortages.
Russia said on October 29 that it was not long “acceptable” for vessels to sail in the humanitarian corridor accusing Ukraine and the west of using the ships for military purposes. They demanded that the Ukrainians stop using it for military purposes but did not specify what they planned to do if ships continued to sail the route. The world commodity markets immediately panicked sending the prices of wheat and corn up sharply.
Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said more than 200 ships were being blocked. This included 22 ships that were loaded and waiting to sail from the three ports covered by the agreement as well as they said 95 vessels that had already left Ukrainian ports and were waiting for inspections. Another 100 ships were reported to be waiting for inspections to proceed to Ukraine.
Turkey’s president issued a statement saying they were committed to the program even if Russia was hesitating. By day’s end yesterday, Turkey was reporting that a plan had been agreed upon for a total of 16 ships to proceed. They said 12 ships would depart Ukraine using the humanitarian corridor as planned while four ships would be cleared to proceed to Ukraine.
Officials at the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul reported that they cleared 11 outbound vessels on October 30 but that no additional vessels had been permitted to sail on the corridor. They said over 700,000 metric tons of foodstuffs were already loaded on 21 ships, including the Ikaria Angel chartered by the UN World Food Program with an emergency supply of 30,000 metric tons of wheat for Africa. Six of the vessels moved from the dock on October 30 in anticipation of being permitted to enter the corridor.
Ukraine confirmed that 12 outbound vessels proceeded along the corridor on October 31. They reported it was a new one-day record of 354,500 tons of agricultural products. The total for the exports is nearing 10 million tons since the program began shipments in August.
The UN Coordinator for the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Amir Abdulla Tweeted an image of the corridor showing ships waiting at each end. He wrote, “Civilian cargo ships can never be a military target or held hostage. The food must flow.”
Despite the pressure to continue the shipments and extend the agreement, everyone remains on edge. There are fears that insurers might be spooked by Russia’s latest moves and stop writing insurance or raise the price to make it prohibitive for shipowners. Diplomatic efforts are continuing to try to find a solution while everyone is waiting for word from the Joint Coordination Center if vessels will be permitted to sail along the Black Sea corridor.