By: Oluwafunmilayo Ogedengbe
Ukraine on Wednesday reported that the inaugural cargo vessel to utilize the recently established Black Sea shipping routes had departed from a southern port.
This action occurred in defiance of Russia’s warnings that its naval forces might pose a risk to ships departing Ukraine.
Last week, Kyiv introduced these maritime pathways for non-military ships, responding to Russia’s withdrawal from an accord that previously ensured secure maritime transit for grain exports and issuing threats to cargo ships navigating the Black Sea.
“The first vessel is moving along the temporary corridors established for civilian vessels to and from Black Sea ports,” Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said in a statement.
The ship, known as the Hong Kong-flagged Joseph Schulte, was identified by It, and they mentioned that it had departed from the Odesa port. This port was one of the three transit hubs involved in the grain deal that has since been canceled.
“Ukraine proposed this route in its appeal to the International Maritime Organization (IMO),” Kubrakov added in the statement.
“The corridor will be primarily used to evacuate ships that were in the Ukrainian ports of Chornomorsk, Odesa and Pivdenny at the time of the full-scale invasion by the Russian Federation,” he added.
According to the governor of the Odesa region, Russian airstrikes caused harm to grain silos and storage buildings at a Danube river port. The governor, Oleh Kiper, shared images revealing ruined storage structures and heaps of grain and sunflowers strewn about.
The facility was crucial for transporting grains, as stated by Kiper, while Andriy Yermak, the president’s chief of staff, identified the port as Reni. Moscow has not yet provided any immediate response, and a source within the industry noted that the port’s operations are ongoing.
After the news was announced on Wednesday morning, Benchmark Chicago wheat futures experienced an increase of around 1%. This rise added to a small previous gain that had occurred as the futures rebounded from a two-month low they had reached on Tuesday. In simpler terms, the price of Chicago wheat futures went up by about 1% following the news release, building upon a slight recovery from a low point earlier in the week.
Russia has made regular air strikes on Ukrainian ports and grain silos since pulling out of the U.N.-backed deal in mid-July and has threatened to treat any ships leaving Ukraine as potential military targets. On Sunday it fired warning shots at a ship travelling towards Ukraine.
In spite of the challenges, Ukraine recently declared a “humanitarian corridor” in the Black Sea with the intention of freeing cargo vessels that had been stranded in its ports. The country made a commitment to complete openness in order to unequivocally demonstrate that these ships were not being used for military purposes.
“A first vessel used the temporary corridor for merchant ships to/from the ports of Big Odesa,” Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Facebook.
Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM), which owns the ship jointly with a Chinese bank, confirmed that the ship was en route to Istanbul.
Kubrakov stated that the vessel held over 30,000 metric tons of goods across 2,114 containers. He also mentioned that the established corridor’s main purpose was to facilitate the rescue of ships trapped in Black Sea ports like Chornomorsk, Odesa, and Pivdennyi due to Russia’s invasion.
Moscow has not indicated whether it would respect the shipping corridor, and shipping and insurance sources have expressed concerns about safety.
Ukraine is a major grain and oilseeds exporter and the United Nations says its supplies are vital to developing countries where hunger is a growing concern.
The assaults on Ukraine’s grain facilities occurred subsequent to the commencement of a counteroffensive in early June, which was supported by Western powers. This counteroffensive aimed to remove Russian forces from the territories they had taken control of in the southern and eastern regions.
The presence of significant Russian fortifications and minefields along the front line created challenges for the Ukrainian forces in their efforts to advance. Nevertheless, on Wednesday, Ukrainian forces announced the recapture of another village, marking the first reclaimed settlement since June 27. This suggests some progress in breaking through the obstacles posed by the Russian defenses.
“Urozhaine liberated,” Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said on Telegram. “Our defenders are entrenched on the outskirts.”
There was no immediate comment from Russia. Russian military bloggers said fierce fighting raged near the village and that Russian units were trying to prevent Ukraine strengthening its positions in Urozhaine. Reuters was not able to verify the reports.
The village’s recapture would indicate Ukraine is pressing ahead with an offensive drive towards the Sea of Azov just over 90 km (55 miles) to the south, aiming to cut Russian forces occupying its southeastern coastline in half.