The first Sierra Leone-flagged ship to depart Ukraine following a contract to restart the grain exports from the country two weeks back was nearing Syria’s port Tartous on Sunday. Two trusted shipping sources mentioned after Razoni, the vessel, was sailing with the transponder switched off.
Razoni set sail from Ukraine’s Odesa port on 1 August per the contract between Kyiv and Moscow, brokered by the UN and Turkey. Still, the location was unclear on the previous days without the transponder.
The cargo comprising 26,000 tonnes of corn had been destined for Lebanon, which has been experiencing a massive economic crisis that has plunged almost half of the population into food insecurity.
The original buyer, however, refused delivery owing to quality concerns, and the vessel set sail for Turkey, docking on 11 August in Mersin.
When it departed the next day again, it did not have the transponder on. Two shipping sources, one in Tartous, informed Reuters on Sunday that the vessel was approaching the northwest port of Syria.
Ukraine has accused Syria of importing more than 150,000 tonnes of its grain. The claim was that Syria had plundered that from Ukraine’s warehouses after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Russia, on the other hand, has refused to steal Ukraine’s grain.
Ukraine decided to cut off all diplomatic relations with Syria in June 2022 after Damascus recognized the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk.
The Ukrainian Embassy in Lebanon shared a statement with Reuters from the Ministry of Transport, mentioning that it was not responsible for cargo and vessels after it departed from Ukraine and when a ship departed from (a) foreign port.
The statement mentioned that their responsibility was to reopen seaports to enable grain cargo, and that is done. It also added that it had no information regarding the vessel’s position or cargo destination.
In other news, a UN official reported that an UN-chartered vessel named Brave Commander is prepared to depart Ukraine for Ethiopia soon. It will also be the first-ever humanitarian food aid cargo bound for Africa as Russia sent troops into Ukraine following the Black Sea Grain Initiative framework.
The first vessel loaded with Ukrainian wheat under the deal arrived on Sunday in Istanbul, the Joint Coordination Centre in the Turkish city reported.
References: Reuters, SwissInfo, Alarabiya News