Ships are again moving along Ukraine’s Black Sea corridor after what appeared to be a multi-day stop in all traffic as a result of reports that Russian forces were again dropping explosive devices in the area. Despite continuing Russian activity, the ships are again moving with Ukrainian officials denying there was a temporary suspension.
Ukrainian media is reporting that a small convoy of ships departed the Odesa area following the corridor toward Turkey today. While most of the ships are no longer declaring Ukrainian ports as their destinations on the AIS and turning off transmissions while in the ports, at least six ships are outbound representing a broad array of the international community. The vessels Manassa Queen (23,535 dwt) and the Propus (9,371 dwt), both registered in Panama, were at the head of the convoy which also included the Gloria G (74,381 dwt registered in Liberia). Destinations range from Turkey to the Suez Canal.
The initial departures from the Odesa area were followed by other ships including the Pegasus (34,958 dwt registered in the Cayman Islands), the Iasos (52,817 dwt registered in Turkey), and from Pivdennyi (Yuzhne) the Lucky Trader (25,000 dwt registered in Panama). A chemical tanker Mavka (13,586 registered in Panama) is also in the Odesa area.
Equally important several ships are inbound while additional ones appear to be holding in the anchorage near Sulina, Romania. The Greek-managed Calypso V (75,596 dwt) that had been holding to the south for several days arrived in Chornomorsk and is being followed by the Sky Gate (28,397 dwt registered in San Marino). Two other vessels, the Resilient Africa (3,276 dwt registered in Palau) and Golden Arrow (14,187 dwt registered in Barbados) are inbound to the Odesa area. The Maranita (5,083 dwt registered in Cameroon) is heading into Pivdennyi (Yuzhne).
While most of the attention over the delay centered on the recent reports of Russia’s dropping likely bottom mines in the area, the Ukrainian media outlet Dumskaya says there is also an investigation into grain smuggling schemes in the Odesa area. They suggested that there has been law enforcement activity in the past few days. In total, Vice Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov reports almost 130,000 tons of grain and 10,000 tons of metal were exported today to countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Further, he says 11 ships are loading in the primary three Black Sea ports and will be exporting a further total of almost 225,000 tons of agricultural and metal products. He contends that a total of 62 vessels have now used the corridor launched by Ukraine in August.
Ukraine’s Infrastructure Administration issued a statement saying, “All the Navy established available routes are valid and used by civilian ships. Given that the corridor was implemented in the difficult conditions of Russian military aggression, its functioning takes into account the military environment and weather conditions.”
At the same time, media reports are saying that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak about the situation in the Black Sea. The newspapers said they discussed Russia’s actions that pose a danger to civilian shipping and that Ukraine asked for the UK’s help to expand insurance for the shipping activities.
The Joint Coordination Center of the Southern Operational Command for Ukraine continues to warn of the potential dangers on the route. In their daily update, they wrote, “Russians continue to terrorize civilian shipping paths in the Black Sea by dropping controlled air bombs, bottom mines or other explosive objects.”
Despite the dangers, Zelenskyy is emphasizing that the corridor is functioning and that vessels will continue to service the ports despite the dangers. They are reporting a total of 23 ships were loading in the three main Black Sea ports with Zelenskyy asserting that another 50 ships are expected to arrive. The grain trade is vital to Ukraine’s economy.