The Russian Federation has agreed to the resumption of the inspections of ships heading to only two out of the three ports taking part in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which established a humanitarian maritime corridor to allow ships to export grain and other foodstuffs from Ukraine, after the announcement of the extension of the initiative.
Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Community Development, Territories, and Infrastructure Yurii Vaskov announced this in a statement, the CFTS portal reports, citing the Interfax Ukraine news agency.
"It was announced in the morning on 19 May that Russia has agreed to the resumption of the inspections of ships heading to the ports of Odesa and Chornomorsk but not vessels heading to the port of Pivdennyi," Vaskov said.
According to him, 62 vessels are currently waiting for inspection, including some that have been waiting for several months.
He confirmed that no vessels taking part in the Black Sea Grain Initiative remain in Ukrainian seaports after the Barbados-flagged DSM Capella ship left the port of Chornomorsk for Turkey with 30,000 tons of corn on board on 17 May.
"This is the result of Russia's destructive policy, the aim of which is to restrict the operation of the initiative," the deputy minister said.
According to him, Russia's actions in the Black Sea Grain Initiative’s Joint Coordination Center (JCC) are leading to a significant increase in the cost of logistics and its components (insurance, freight, etc.). "That is why we are currently seeing only 62 ships waiting in line to enter the seaports. The chartering of additional ships actually stopped at a certain time because it was unclear what would happen. The market always needs predictability," Vaskov said.
According to him, Ukraine is ready to export 6 million tons of agricultural products per month from the three ports if the grain initiative is implemented normally, but Russia has been finding new reasons to limit exports and suspend the grain initiative since November, as a result of which less than 1 million tons were exported from 1 to 17 May and 2.7 million tons in April.
The deputy minister confirmed that Russia’s representatives in the JCC rejected the list of ships that Ukrainian port operators submitted for inspection in April and proposed their own list of ships. "We certainly did not agree to this. There was also a suspension for several days after that. As a result, the UN and Turkey proposed switching to the principle of ‘live queues,’ according to which ships that physically arrive earlier are to be submitted for inspection. We agreed to this, although it does not correspond to our port operators’ plans. We agreed because it is ultimately better than non-implementation of the grain initiative and because it is transparent," Vaskov said.
He added that the implementation of the grain initiative continued like this for about a week, and the Russian Federation unilaterally stopped the inspection of ships heading to the Pivdennyi port and later the inspection of ships heading to other ports.
According to him, the "oldest" inbound ships (the ships that have been waiting for inspection the longest) should be the first to be inspected. Such vessels could reach a Ukrainian port within two days after inspection. "We will see how it works now. As I said, the implementation of the initiative has resumed for now. So far, there have been no inspections of inbound ships," said Vaskov.
According to JCC data, only two outbound vessels that were awaiting inspection remained inside the humanitarian maritime corridor as of the evening of 18 May. In total, 917 inbound and 950 outbound vessels have been inspected since the launch of the Black Sea Grain Initiative in early August 2022 (the difference in the numbers of inbound and outbound ships is because some vessels loaded with agricultural products were in Ukrainian ports at the beginning of the war).
Only 11 inbound vessels were inspected in May, compared with 54 in April and 89 in March. The highest numbers of inbound vessels were inspected in September and October (186 and 136 vessels, respectively).
As for inspections of outbound vessels, 53 have been conducted since the beginning of May, compared with 65 in April and 85 in March. The highest number of outbound vessels were inspected in October (194), up from 125 in September 2022 and 105 in November-December 2022.
As a result, exports decreased to 1.07 million tons in May from 2.79 million tons in April and 3.93 million tons in March, according to JCC data. Exports peaked at 4.24 million tons in October 2022. In total, 30.28 million tons have been exported since the launch of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.