In a significant development, two cargo ships have successfully reached a Ukraine port through a new route via the Black Sea, according to Ukrainian port authorities.
The vessels, named Resilient Africa and Aroyat, arrived at Chornomorsk in Ukraine on a mission to load 20,000 tonnes of wheat destined for global markets.
This marks a historic moment as it’s the first time civilian ships have accessed a Ukrainian port since the collapse of a deal with Russia that ensured the safety of vessels in the region. Previously, this corridor was exclusively used by ships departing from Ukraine.
Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov disclosed that both ships sailed under the flag of the Oceanic island nation of Palau and had a diverse crew hailing from Ukraine, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Egypt. The cargo will be transported to Egypt and Israel, as confirmed by Ukraine’s agricultural ministry.
The creation of this maritime corridor along the western coast of the Black Sea was unilaterally declared by Kyiv after Russia abandoned a UN-backed agreement facilitating grain exports from Ukrainian ports. Moscow cited non-compliance with parts of the agreement that allowed the export of Russian food and fertilizers, alongside grievances about Western sanctions impacting its own agricultural exports.
In response, Russia has issued threats, considering civilian ships en route to Ukraine as potential military targets. Recently, the UK accused Russia of targeting one such vessel with multiple cruise missiles while it was docked in the Ukrainian port of Odesa.
Ukraine is a major global supplier of crops like sunflower oil, barley, maize, and wheat. However, when Russia invaded in February 2022, its navy blockaded Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, resulting in the containment of 20 million tonnes of grain earmarked for export. This had cascading effects, causing world food prices to surge and endangering food supplies in Middle Eastern and African nations, which heavily rely on Ukrainian imports.
Some of these countries, including Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, and Ethiopia, continue to grapple with urgent humanitarian food needs.
Aside from threatening ships navigating the Black Sea, Moscow has intensified attacks on Ukrainian port infrastructure. Ports like Izmail and Reni, key outlets for Ukraine’s grain exports since July, have been recurrent targets, with Russia attempting to disrupt operations.
Kyiv has denounced Russia’s actions as a “cynical” attempt to undermine its grain exports and global food security. This ongoing struggle over maritime access underscores the complex interplay between geopolitics and the global food supply chain.