Black Sea shipping is set to dominate maritime headlines this week with the heads of littoral states discussing how to navigate the war-torn waters with international leaders, while Russia continues to pummel Ukrainian port infrastructure.
Over the weekend Volodymyr Zelensiyy, the president of Ukraine, revealed two more ships had managed to break free from local seaports, having been unable to move since war broke out 18 months ago.
Ocean Courtesy, a Japanese capesize, and Greek bulk carrier Anna Theresa headed south from Pivdenniy port and made it successfully to ports in Romania and Bulgaria respectively.
A total of four long stranded ships have now made it out of Ukraine in the three weeks since the country established what it terms as a humanitarian corridor to get marooned vessels out, something authorities would like to upgrade to start grain exports again, something that has not been possible since Russia quit a United Nations-brokered shipping pact at the end of July.
“We urge our allies to support our effort by providing more air defense systems. Together, we can protect freedom of navigation in the Black Sea and beyond,” Zelenskiy stated via social media over the weekend.
The Ukrainian president also held a call with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, over the weekend in which the pair discussed how best to ensure safe navigation in the Black Sea.
Yesterday’s phone call came on the eve of a summit in Russia between Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who wants to revive the UN grain deal.
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said on Thursday that he had sent a letter to Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov with “concrete proposals” aimed at getting Moscow’s exports to global markets in a bid to revive the Black Sea grain shipping pact.
The Russian military deployed drones yesterday to attack port infrastructure on the Ukrainian Danube ports of Izmail and Reni, two key grain export facilities for Ukraine now that its seaports are off limits.
Since the end of the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI) in July, Ukrainian seaborne grain exports have continued at Danube ports. Meanwhile, some Ukrainian volumes are being exported on barges – in addition to landborne volumes – to the Romanian ports of Sulina and Constanta and loaded onto bulkers.
“Despite alternative routes, customs data suggests Ukrainian seaborne grain exports remain below peak BSGI levels,” Clarksons Research noted in a report published on Friday, noting that the country shipped just 1.1m tonnes by sea last month, compared to 3.5m tonnes in May when the shipping pact was still in full swing.