A ship carrying grain from Ukraine under a deal to unblock supplies amid the threat of a global food crisis has become the first to reach its destination.
The Turkey-flagged Polarnet docked at Derince port near Istanbul after setting off from Chornomorsk on August 5 laden with 12,000 tons of corn.
“This sends a message of hope to every family in the Middle East, Africa and Asia: Ukraine won’t abandon you,” Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted.
Polarnet Captain Ahmet Yucel Alibeyler highlighted the risks faced by the three grain-carrying ships that left Ukraine.
“These were, of course, dangerous areas, corridors that had been cleared, demined,” he said, adding that the convoy was escorted by a harbour pilot ship until it left the risky waters.
A total of 12 ships have been authorised to sail under the grain deal between Ukraine and Russia, which was brokered by Turkey and the United Nations — 10 outbound and two headed for Ukraine.
Some 322,000 metric tons of agricultural products have left Ukrainian ports, the bulk of it corn but also sunflower oil and soya.
Ships leaving Ukraine are checked by officials from the three countries and the UN to make sure they carry only grain, fertiliser or food and not any other commodities. Inbound vessels are checked to ensure they are not carrying weapons.
But the grain deal remains far from plain sailing. The first ship to leave Ukraine, the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni, which left on August 1, will no longer dock in Lebanon and will change course, the director of Tripoli Port told the Associated Press on Monday.
The Sierra Leonian-flagged Razoni, carrying 26,000 metric tons of corn for chicken feed that departed from Odesa last Monday, had been set to dock in the northern Lebanese port on Sunday, but according to Marine Traffic, it changed its status on Saturday to “order”, meaning the ship was waiting for someone to buy the corn.
Ukraine’s embassy in Beirut tweeted on Monday that the corn’s final buyer in Lebanon had refused to accept the cargo due to delivery delay beyond a contractual limit and that the shipper was looking for another buyer.
The shipment had been a grain of hope for the economically shattered tiny Mediterranean nation, also suffering from a food security crisis.
Soaring food inflation, wheat shortages and breadlines have crippled a population, of whom about half are food insecure, according to the United Nations World Food Programme.