Grain exports from Ukrainian sea ports have been halted today as the security situation in the Black Sea remains tense following Russia’s decision over the weekend to suspend its participation in a regional shipping initiative.
In the wake of an attack on its navy in Crimea on Saturday, Russia announced it would no longer be part of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. However, Ukraine, the United Nations and Türkiye vowed to carry on regardless, with ships departing and entering Ukrainian sea ports on Monday and Tuesday.
The coordinators of the grain shipping deal took the decision to halt shipments today, but remain hopeful that much needed grain exports can resume shortly with the UN coordinator for the Ukraine Black Sea grain deal, Amir Abdulla, saying he expects loaded ships to depart Ukrainian ports on Thursday.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president told his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, that he was “confident” the issue of grain exports from Ukraine could be resolved in a phone call yesterday.
Putin replied, saying he wanted Kyiv to give “real guarantees” that it was “not using the humanitarian corridor for military purposes”, a Kremlin statement said.
Ship operators, security experts and insurers have voiced concerns that ships could become collateral damage as Russia looks to take out port infrastructure.
Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping, commented: “We hope that a solution can be found that ensures grain continues to move out of Ukraine, and that all those involved in its movement can be reassured about their safety.”
Platten stressed it was “imperative” that ships already in the grain corridor do not become collateral damage, and are allowed safe passage.
Ukrainian authorities reported on Monday two tugboats carrying a barge full of grain were hit near the port of Ochakiv with two crewmembers killed. The port is not one of the three in the UN-brokered grain shipping deal, but nevertheless underscores the risks vessels face in the region.
With Russia walking away from the deal, security consultants Dryad Global have warned in a new report that the risk to vessels and crews from commercial interruption and risk to safety are considerably enhanced across the short to medium term.
“In the event that either Ukraine continues to mount successful large scale attacks against Russia in the maritime domain, or that Russia cannot be negotiated back into the parameters of the initiative, it is highly likely that Russia will seek to severely limit Ukrainian maritime capacity including the likelihood of significant attacks on key Ukrainian export terminals,” Dryad Global suggested.
The deal to export Ukrainian grain lasts for 120 days and is due for renewal on November 18.