Trade route launched between occupied Mariupol and Russia
Grain shipments have resumed from Mariupol under a new operation run by Russian government body RosKapStroy
A new operation run by RosKapStroy will see 6,000 tonnes of building materials delivered to the port of Mariupol in May and the equivalent export of agricultural products
THE first shipment of grain has left the occupied port of Mariupol as part of a new logistics route that will see construction materials and agricultural commodities traded between Mariupol and the Russian port of Rostov-na-Donu, according to the self-described acting head of the Donetsk People’s Republic.
“As planned, the first vessel loaded with grain from the Donetsk People’s Republic was loaded in the Mariupol Commercial Seaport,” a statement posted May 7 on Denis Pushilin’s official Telegram channel read.
It is the first arrival under a new trade lane operated by RosKapStroy, a company that carries out construction work under Russia’s Ministry of Construction.
Ships will be delivering building materials to Mariupol from Rostov-na-Donu. The vessels will then return to Rostov loaded with grain from “the new territories of the Russian Federation,” according to a press release from RosKapStroy.
This approach will reduce logistics costs and ease pressure on inland transport checkpoints, said Pushilin.
There are three voyages planned between Rostov and Mariupol in May which will see the import of 6,000 tons of construction materials and the equivalent export of agricultural products.
“We are seeing direct evidence that the Russian state and Russian state enterprises are being called in to assist war efforts, and at this level specifically to help with the export of grain from illegally occupied territories in Ukraine,” said Yörük Işık, a geopolitical analyst from the Istanbul-based consultancy Bosphorus Observer.
RosKapStroy said a ship by the name “Mezhdurechensk” was the first to travel from Rostov-na-Donu to Mariupol as part of the new supply chain.
Lloyd’s List understands this to be Russia-flagged general cargoship Mezhdurechensk (IMO: 8948167).
Lloyd’s List verified that the vessel was docked at Rostov-na-Donu at the end of April using satellite imagery.
However, Lloyd’s List cannot confirm that Mezhdurechensk berthed at the grain terminal in the port of Mariupol in early May given that there are several periods where satellite imagery is not available because of cloudy weather.
Pictures provided by Planet Labs PBC do confirm activity at the port with at least one vessel seen arriving and departing during the last week of April.
No ships have called at the port of Mariupol with their Automatic Identification Systems on this year, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence vessel-tracking data.
There are many reasons for a vessel to not transmit an AIS position, some of which are legitimate. Weather and technical issues can lead to gaps in transmission, and in some instances a ship may turn off its AIS if there is an issue of safety, such as when travelling through a conflict zone.
The deliberate disabling of AIS without legitimate cause is considered a deceptive shipping practice.
Vessels can obfuscate their journeys during these “dark” periods. It is common practice for those evading sanctions or engaging in illicit activities.
Mezhdurechensk is owned by Rostov-on-Don based River Sea Management.
On its website River Sea claims that nearly every ship that passes the port of Rostov-na-Donu, as well as enters, deals with the company.
River Sea Management also manages general cargoship RM 3 (IMO: 8877241), which made the first traceable post-invasion call to Mariupol on December 20, 2022.
RM 3 is signalling Mariupol as its next destination having departed Sevastopol on May 14.
Last month Lloyd’s List reported Russia’s plans to increase exports from the occupied port of Berdyansk.
“This is how the Kremlin operates, it tries to give legitimacy and establish trade patterns to the so-called republics,” said Işık.
“This is also how illegitimate and unlawful regimes make money, as they will be collecting some sort of tax from grain brokers and others involved in this operation.”
The trade should not be viewed as internal, he added. The exports are destined for Russia because sanctions regimes have prevented the occupying forces from dealing directly with the rest of the world.
With additional assistance from Rob Willmington