With almost 100 grain-laden vessels approaching the horizon off Istanbul, the key UN official supervising the exports from Ukraine has been asking Russia and other parties to end “full-blown” reviews of any outgoing vessel as that will help clear the backlog.
Ukraine has exported over 6.8 million tons of grains and other foodstuffs, about one-third of its storage since a sea corridor from the war-torn nation opened up in July. The UN states that the safe passage deal that Kyiv and Moscow signed smoothed a worldwide food crisis. But since more shippers have joined, the handful of teams examining the cargo and crew members transiting the Turkish waters started falling behind, leaving the scores of tankers anchored in the waters of the Marmara Sea.
Amir Abdulla, the UN Coordinator responsible for the Black Sea Grain Initiative, mentioned that he had proposed quicker and more targeted checks on the ships that are reaching from the ports of Ukraine. The four parties to the deal
— Ukraine, Russia, and brokers Türkiye and the UN are negotiating a potential expansion and extension beyond its 19 November deadline.
There will need to be a change, and it is hoped that an enhanced way of carrying out (inspections) as part of conversations can be negotiated. Abdulla informed Reuters at the four-party Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) based in Istanbul.
As of Monday, a whopping 97 outgoing vessels transporting about 2.1 million tons of cargo were awaiting their inspections, with one reportedly being held up for 35 days, a Reuters analysis uncovered. Including those returning empty to Ukraine, the JCC said the backlog registered 120 last week.
There has to be a check, but that check need not be a full-blown inspection, Abdulla mentioned, adding that they have suggested … maybe spot reviews or checking specific vessels.
The Reuters analysis showed that the delays got worse from mid-September, with inspection-specific wait times doubling to nearly ten days by 21 September. Approximately 70% of vessels departed from Ukraine after that date were awaiting inspections.
Russia and the Kremlin’s defence ministry refused to respond to requests for comment regarding adjusting inspections.
The Agriculture Minister of Ukrain,e named Mykola Solskyi, informed Reuters last week that the officials, based in Istanbul, had inadequately explained why the examinations had “slowed” down in the previous two weeks.
Abdulla reported that the backlog is owing to increasing export volumes and a lack of readiness on some vessels, including the needed test equipment, documents, and fumigation. He is trying for clearance from Ukraine, Russia, and Turkey to double the four-party inspection teams to eight.
Per JCC, it has conducted 500+ inspections at an average rate of 10-11 daily in September and October. The new figure is up from four in August. But a lack of onboard preparedness indicates that inspectors were required to return a second time on about 50 occasions.
Russia has strongly criticized the grains deal, complaints about its exports remained hindered, and it could also reject an extension.
The UN is striving to extend it for a year and expand it to include Russia’s fertilizer exports via Ukraine (like ammonia), a prime aspect of the original and initial deal.
Though not involved directly in talks to extend the deal, Abdulla mentioned that he expects Russia’s ammonia exports to be added and observed Ukraine may seek to expand the corridor east to the Mykolaiv port. Once the exports of ammonia begin, the inspection regime will need a thorough review. They are currently in the early stages of discussing it.
References: Daily Sabah, Reuters