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Grain corridor extension hangs in the balance as negotiations begin

Ukraine and Russia both have demands for any updating to the agreement, which is set to expire in mid-November

Representatives from the United Nations, Ukraine, Russia and Türkiye are meeting to discuss the future of the corridor while the Joint Co-ordination Centre tackles a logistics bottleneck 

TALKS have started on the continuation and potential expansion of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

The deal allows ships to export grain, other foodstuffs and fertilisers from the Ukrainian ports of Odesa, Yuzhnyi and Chornomorsk.

Ukraine’s minister of infrastructure Oleksandr Kubrakov met Türkiye’s defence minister Hulusi Akar at the Joint Co-ordination Centre in Istanbul in recent days to discuss the renewal.

“The participating parties of the initiative — the United Nations, Türkiye and Ukraine — expressed their readiness to continue operating and assured maximum efforts for its successful implementation. There is no doubt that the grain corridor will continue operating after November 22,” said Mr Kubrakov.

As of October 16, approximately 7.7m tonnes of grain and other foodstuffs has been exported under the agreement, according to JCC data.

Exports under the deal have recently been hampered by inspection delays though, and journey times to pass through the corridor have subsequently increased to 25 days.

Ukraine emphasised the importance of speeding up the ship inspection process during the meeting in Istanbul.

Secretary general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development Rebeca Grynspan and under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief co-ordinator Martin Griffiths were set to travel to Moscow on October 16 to negotiate the extension and expansion of the grain deal.

Russia is looking to restart its ammonia exports as part of an updated agreement, Amir Mahmoud Abdulla, the UN’s co-ordinator for the Black Sea Grain Initiative told Politico in an interview.

Prior to the current hostilities, Russia’s ammonia travelled via the Tolyatti-Odesa pipeline, where it was exported from Pivdennyi.

Kyiv’s aims are to extend the deal for more than a year to guarantee the export of next year’s harvest and add the port of Mykolaiv into the deal, according to Abdulla.

Since August, 345 vessels have departed the ports of Odesa, Chornomorsk and Yuzhnyi.

Major shipowners have largely avoided Ukrainian grain contracts. As a result, Ukraine’s commodities are mainly being transported by smaller old ships operated in many cases by opaque ownership structures.

Several of the ships from the grain corridor fleet have had technical issues while en route.

Bulk carrier Lady Zehma (IMO: 9303431) experienced rudder failure and ran aground in the Bosporus Strait while transporting corn from Chornomorsk to Ravenna, in Italy.

The ship was on its way back to Türkiye when it experienced another technical issue on October 15, forcing it to drop anchor at Karanlik Liman anchorage. The vessel has since sailed and is waiting in the Sea of Marmara, potentially to make another journey to one of Ukraine’s export hubs.

Liberia-flagged bulk carrier Christina B (IMO: 9304162) was waiting to pass along the grain corridor when it was hit by bulker Amis Wisdom VI (IMO: 9589803) in the waters outside the southern entrance of the Bosporus on October 14.

Christina B sustained damage to the starboard side shell plating, according to a Lloyd’s List Intelligence casualty report.

Congestion in the Sea of Marmara has recently been exacerbated by the delays in JCC inspections. 

In September, the general cargoship Briza (IMO: 9286815) had engine failure and loss of control at Kandilli point in the Istanbul Strait on September 3 while it was on its way to Chornomorsk.

Osprey S (IMO: 9300843), one of the first bulk carriers to travel inbound via the grain corridor, lost power in the Aegean Sea on August 19 while travelling from Chornomorsk to Iskenderun, Türkiye.

The ship was still under repair at Tuzla as of October 9. The vessel has made no voyages since.

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