Ukraine has said it is ready for grain ships to pass through its waters, but is awaiting a green light from the United Nations, which it hopes to receive later on Friday.
An announcement from insurer Lloyd’s of London Ascot and broker Marsh that they had launched ocean freight and war insurance for grain and foodstuffs from Black Sea ports also removed a hurdle to start-ups. shipments.
“We hope today to receive UN approval confirming the corridors we have proposed for ships to take in the Black Sea,” said Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, standing in Odessa next to a ship aground since the invasion and now ready to sail.
“After [receiving approval] we are ready to start… we hope that by the end of this week the first ship will leave our ports,” he said. Ukrainian media reported earlier that shipments would start on Friday.
As part of the grain deal, the UN and Turkey have guaranteed the safe passage of ships carrying much-needed grain from Ukraine. Russian forces blockaded Ukrainian ports in February as part of Moscow’s bid to capture the country, sparking a global grain shortage that has pushed some countries towards starvation.
Ukraine has mined the waters along its coast to protect itself from a land invasion by Russia. Ships will therefore have to navigate carefully when leaving ports.
“We have solved almost all the technical questions [on our side] … we provided the UN with some options,” Kubrakov said of the ship routes. He said it now depends on how the UN and Turkey facilitate the deal.
Less than 24 hours after the agreement was signed on Saturday, Russia fired two missiles at the port of Odessascandalizing the international community and casting doubt on the continuation of the grain agreement.
Despite the attacks, ambassadors from the G7 countries to Ukraine as well as UN and EU officials stood next to Kubrakov in Odessa on Friday and expressed hope that Russia would keep its end of the bargain.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited Chornomorsk, a port in the southern region of Odessa, to meet with the representatives and monitor the preparations for the expeditions.
British Ambassador to Ukraine Melinda Simmons said that although the UK was not involved in the deal or its implementation, it had helped secure commercial insurance for the vessels from suppliers in London. The Ascot announcement signaled that progress had been made.
Simmons said last Saturday’s attack scared insurance companies, but they shouldn’t be deterred.
“The main thing is not to be afraid of Russia’s tactics because that’s what they are – tactics, to prevent this from happening,” she said.
Export specialists said this week that ship insurance could be one of the biggest hurdles Ukraine faces in terms of future trade.
Simmons said the UK was also helping Ukraine understand how much grain Russia had stolen from its occupied territories. There are mounting proofs that Russia exports grain from the Ukrainian territories it occupies.
“Millions of people around the world are waiting for grain to come out of this port and other Ukrainian ports,” said Bridget Brink, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. “A week ago the Russians signed an agreement with the UN and Turkey… 24 hours later Russia bombed that same port.”
“I hope there will be an agreement later this morning and I can say that the United States and the rest of the world will look to Russia to stand up and implement its agreements,” added Brink.
Ukraine is exporting at a rate of around 2.5 million tonnes a year, down from 0.3 tonnes in March, said Remi Duflot, deputy head of the EU delegation to Ukraine at the port.
Before the war, Ukraine exported about 6-8 million tons per month. Since the blockade of its Black Sea ports, Ukraine has used the Danube and its rail network to transport its grain.