First Grain Ship Leaves Ukraine Port Amid Ongoing War

The first grain-carrying ship left the Ukrainian port of Odesa on Monday, marking a historic agreement between the country and its neighbor Russia.

Moscow launched an offensive against Ukraine in February and blocked the nation’s ports as the conflict escalated.

However, the two sides have reached an agreement to resume wheat shipments as part of a plan to ease the global food crisis and combat rising grain prices.

The Razoni, a vessel registered in Sierra Leone, will dock at the port of Tripoli in Lebanon, Turkish authorities said, also noting that other charges are scheduled for the upcoming weeks.

According to the Joint Coordination Center, which was established in Istanbul as part of the agreement, the ship was carrying about 26,000 tonnes of corn. It was scheduled to enter the Turkish seas for inspection on Tuesday.

Oleksandr Kubrakov, Ukraine’s minister of infrastructure, told the media that the Razoni was a crucial test to demonstrate the deal’s viability. Turkey’s government was appointed to assist its safe passage through hazardous waters.

“There’s the question of mines. There are a lot of mines – starting from World War Two, in addition to mines which appeared in the Black Sea starting from February – it provides a lot of risks,” he said.

However, there are still concerns that the ships may not get affordable insurance to return for another cargo after leaving the current conflict zone of Ukraine with tons of grain.

Between one and three ships are expected to arrive in both directions in the coming weeks, including some empty ones arriving at Odessa airport from Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait.

Seeing the first ship leaving a Ukrainian port in the midst of war can be hopeful and represents a significant step forward. However, the operation must last for a prolonged period in order to benefit the damaged economy of Ukraine and the rest of the world.

Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s grain has exacerbated the world food crisis by driving up the cost of wheat-based goods like bread and pasta, cooking oils, and fertilizer.

Together, Russia and Ukraine produce close to one-third of the world’s wheat. According to UN statistics, Ukraine produced 42% of the world’s sunflower oil and 16% of the corn in 2019.