Two ships have left a Ukrainian Black Sea port carrying grain this September, as part of Kyiv’s pursuit of overcoming Russia’s naval blockade.
The first of the two ships, named Resilient Africa, set off on what Ukraine calls a new temporary humanitarian corridor with a cargo of 3,000 tonnes on 19 September.
The second, more recent, vessel to voyage across the route was The Aroyat which “left the port Chornomorsk after loading 17,600 (metric tonnes of) Ukrainian wheat for Egypt,” said Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine, Oleksandr Kubrakov.
The alternative route used by both ships travels around the western coast of the Black Sea, crossing Romanian and Bulgarian territorial waters thereby bypassing Russian warships.
According to the BBC, the Black Sea route was once used as a humanitarian corridor that allowed a passage for empty ships which had been trapped in Ukraine’s Black Sea ports since the conflict’s onset. Since Ukraine announced the route last month, five vessels have left.
Ukraine has also expanded its export trade corridors through shipping grain via Croatian seaports. Kyiv and Croatia made a preliminary agreement for Ukraine to move grain through Croatian ports on the Danube and the Adriatic Sea, said Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, during her visit to Zagreb.
Ukraine has also relied on the Danube River to export a growing amount of grain from Reni and Izmail.
Russia restricted Black Sea ports from Ukraine, among the world’s biggest exporters of grain, following the onset of the conflict in 2022. While Ukraine accused Russia of leveraging global food supplies for their own geopolitical gain, Moscow argued that the ports could be means of handling weapons.
The ports were reopened from July 2022, however, following a UN-brokered grain deal that permitted Russia to inspect ships for arms. Russia has since reimposed the naval blockade this past summer, claiming that the deal was unilaterally beneficial for Kyiv as Moscow felt its demands were being ignored.
Russian President, Vladimir Putin, argued that the agreement had “lost its meaning”, adding that the essence of the deal held great humanitarian significance that “the West has completely emasculated and perverted” through leveraging the grain deal as a political tool.
Odesa’s three seaports, including Chornomorsk, played a significant role in shipping tens of millions of tons of grain during Russia’s invasion while UN-brokered deal was in force.
Kyiv has also exported grain to Europe by road and rail, going through nearby countries including Romania and Moldova, reported the BBC. This mode of transportation, however, is slower and costlier compared to using ships.
The BBC further noted that a major challenge is the difference in rail track sizes between Ukraine and EU countries, requiring grain to be physically moved from one type of train wagon to another when entering the EU.