Ukraine is ready to start grain shipments under an agreement it signed with Turkey, Russia and the UN, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Friday.
Zelenskyy visited the port of Chornomorsk in Odessa for the loading of the first ships. An official statement from his office says “exports could begin in the coming days.”
“Our team is fully prepared,” said Zelenskyy. “We have sent all the signals to our partners – the UN and Turkey, and our military guarantees the security situation. The Minister of Infrastructure is in direct contact with the Turkish side and the UN, we are waiting for a signal from their part that I can start.”
On Thursday, the United Nations said the first cargo ship carrying grain could set sail on Friday.
Speaking to the press, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths said: “We are of course hoping – planning, but hoping – that the first ship movements will take place in a few days, hopefully tomorrow, out of these ports.”
It is still unclear which ships will be the first to leave port. Ukraine said the first ship would be Turkish. Ukrainian Shipping Magazine, a trade publication, reported that a Maltese-flagged, Bulgarian-owned ship, the Rojen, would likely be the first vessel to leave Ukraine via the recently negotiated Black Sea Security Corridor.
Griffiths said details of the deal – signed by Ukraine, Russia, the UN and Turkey last week – were still being worked out at the joint command center in Istanbul.
As part of the deal, Moscow pledged not to attack merchant ships exporting grain from the Ukrainian ports of Odessa, Chornomorsk and Pivdennyi, which have been blocked since the start of the Russian invasion. Ukraine, which depends on its agricultural exports, hopes the deal holds. Within 24 hours of signing the deal, Russia had already hit Odessa with missiles and port infrastructure.
At least 20 million tonnes of grains like wheat and maize have been stuck in Ukraine since last year’s harvest, with another 60 million tonnes expected this summer, Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said this week. at POLITICO. World food prices and hunger have soared because Ukraine is a major exporter of grain to import-dependent countries in Africa and the Middle East.
Earlier this week, the Ukrainian government said it planned to restart agri-food exports first from the port of Chornomorsk, followed by Odessa and Pivdennyi. All three ports are in the Odessa region.
London and its insurance companies are in talks with the Ukrainian government to help insure the ships.
Due to the high risk of ships encountering difficulties when passing through the war zone, insurance premiums are also high – in some cases 20 times more expensive than before the war.