UN Sends Chartered Bulker to Ukraine to Speed Food Relief

UN charters bulker to carry wheat from Ukraine
Brave Commander arrived in Ukraine under charter to the UN to carry wheat to Africa (photo courtesy of Ukraine Infrastructure Ministry)

Published Aug 14, 2022 5:23 PM by The Maritime Executive

The United Nations has chartered a 23,700 dwt dry bulk carrier registered in Lebanon and dispatched it to Ukraine to load one of the first shipments of wheat as it looks to resume both wheat exports from Ukraine and get badly needed food to Africa. This came as the Joint Coordination Center is now reporting a steady flow of vessels into and out of Ukraine, including the first roundtrip of a vessel since the start of the war in February.

The UN’s World Food Program announced the charter saying the development marks, “another important step in efforts to reintegrate Ukrainian food into global markets and get it to countries worst affected by the global food crisis through both commercial and humanitarian avenues.” THE WFP, along with the U.S. Agency for International Development and several private donors, are funding the cargo and charter to Africa. Last, year reports said the relief agency purchased more than 800,000 tons of grain mostly sent from Ukraine to Africa.

The vessel, the Brave Commander was given permission after an inspection in Turkey to proceed into the Black Sea heading for the port of Yuzhne. Ukrainian officials confirmed that the ship docked on Friday and began loading a cargo of more than 23,000 metric tons of wheat over the weekend. They expect that the vessel will be ready to depart on Monday bound for Ethiopia.

To date, most of the shipments have been of corn with smaller amounts of sunflower meal, sunflower oil, and soybeans. While the UN-brokered deal focused on food supplies, much of what has been shipped will be used as animal feed or for fuel.  However, in what was seen as another important step on Friday, the JCC cleared the 3,550 dwt bulker Sormovskiy 121, registered in Belize, to depart Chornomorsk carrying the first cargo of wheat in six months. The vessel is now in the anchorage south of Istanbul and will deliver its cargo to eastern Turkey.


Laden Fulmar S. departed Ukraine on August 13 becoming the first vessel to make the roundtrip since the start of the war (Ukrainian Infrastructure Ministry)


In yet another positive sign of progress with the humanitarian corridor, the JCC on Saturday cleared the Fulmar S. to depart from Chornomorsk with 12,000 metric tons of corn bound for Turkey. A week ago, she had become the first vessel cleared by the JCC to make the inbound voyage to Ukraine. Her trial voyage was used as the proof of concept to begin the regular flow of vessels back to the Ukrainian ports under the terms of the agreement. 

The JCC is highlighting today, August 14, that six additional vessels have been cleared to begin voyages to Ukraine. Two of the ships were inspected today in the Marmara Sea and they were cleared to proceed to Chornomorsk. Three more will be inspected tomorrow bound for the same port while one more vessel is due to be inspected before being permitted to proceed to Odesa. The process of clearing and inspecting vessels is becoming increasingly routine.

At the same time, unconfirmed reports are also indicating that the beleaguered first vessel that kicked off the program, the Razoni, appears to have found buyers for the cargo onboard. After being rejected by the original Lebanese buyer, Reuters is reporting that a portion of the cargo was offloaded in Turkey and that the vessel after traveling dark for the past few days is arriving in Syria, which will be the buyer for the remainder of the corn. Many are seeing it as an ironic twist after Ukraine accused Syria of colluding with Russia in the theft of its grain.

On Friday, Secretary-General António Guterres of the UN also took another step toward formalizing the operation announcing the appointment of Amir Mahmoud Abdulla as the UN Coordinator for the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Mr. Abdulla is the former Deputy Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of WFP, and he succeeds Frederick Kenney, who was on loan to the program from the International Maritime Organization (IMO).