First ship carrying Ukrainian grain set out from Odesa port
The first ship carrying Ukrainian grain set out from the port of Odesa on Aug. 1 under a deal brokered by the United Nations and Türkiye that is expected to release large stores of Ukrainian crops to foreign markets and ease a growing food crisis.
The Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni left Odesa for Lebanon, the Turkish Defense Ministry said, noting that the vessel will first reach Istanbul for inspection in line with an agreement that Russia and Ukraine made with Türkiye and the U.N., which aimed to resume grain shipments to international markets via the Black Sea.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the Razoni was expected to dock on Aug. 2 afternoon in Istanbul at the entrance of the Bosporus, where joint teams of Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and U.N. officials would board it for inspections.
A Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) was set up in Istanbul last week under the auspices of the United Nations, comprising representatives from Ukraine, the Russian Federation and Türkiye.
“The problems they have are obvious; there is a war. But it is the only place where the two sides are able to come together,” Akar said. “Despite the ups and downs, there is a good environment for dialogue,’’ he added.
The deal has a phrase that envisages 120 days of duration for the implementation of the deal, but the agreement will be extended unless parties object, the minister noted.
Akar warned that the global food crisis threatened to trigger “a serious wave of migration from Africa to Europe and Türkiye.”
Ankara is also ready to facilitate the shipment of food and chemicals waiting at the Russian ports, the minister stated.
“There are also food and various chemicals in Russia’s ports. The transfer of these is a separate issue apart from our work. But if we can make a contribution, we would be pleased as Türkiye,” he said.
The corn is destined for Lebanon, a Middle East nation in the grips of what the World Bank has described as one of the world’s worst financial crises in more than 150 years. A 2020 explosion at its main port in Beirut shattered its capital city and destroyed grain silos there, a part of which collapsed following a weeks-long fire on July 31.
A statement from the United Nations said the Razoni was carrying over 26,000 tons of corn.
“The first grain ship since Russian aggression has left port,’’ Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Twitter, posting a video of the long vessel sounding its horn as its slowly headed out to sea.
Posting separately on Facebook, Kubrakov said Ukraine is the fourth-largest corn exporter in the world, “so the possibility of exporting it via ports is a colossal success in ensuring global food security.”
“Today Ukraine, together with partners, takes another step to prevent world hunger,” he added.
Ukraine’s Infrastructure Ministry said that 16 more ships, all blocked since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, were waiting their turn in the ports of Odesa.
Kubrakov said the shipments would also help Ukraine’s war-shattered economy.
“Unlocking ports will provide at least $1 billion in foreign exchange revenue to the economy and an opportunity for the agricultural sector to plan for next year,’’ Kubrakov said.
The United Nations welcomed the development, saying in a statement that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hopes the shipments will “bring much-needed stability and relief to global food security, especially in the most fragile humanitarian contexts.’’
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov hailed the ship’s departure as “very positive,’’ saying it would help test the “efficiency of the mechanisms that were agreed during the talks in Istanbul.’’
The European Union and NATO welcomed the departure of a grain shipment from Ukraine as a “first step” towards easing the food crisis caused by the Russian invasion.
But EU spokesman Peter Stano said Brussels still expects the “implementation of the whole deal and resumption of Ukrainian exports to the customers around the world.”
Separately, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said western allies “strongly support the full implementation of the deal to ease the global food crisis caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine.”