The first grain-carrying ship has sailed from a Ukrainian port under a historic deal with Russia. Turkish and Ukrainian officials say the ship left Odesa’s southern port on Monday morning.
Russia has been blocking Ukrainian ports since February, but the two sides held talks to resume shipments. The deal is expected to ease the global food crisis and lower the price of grain.
Turkey said the Sierra Leone-flagged vessel, Rajoni, would dock at the port of Tripoli in Lebanon, adding that more shipments were planned in the coming weeks.
The Joint Coordination Center set up in Istanbul as part of the deal said the ship was carrying about 26,000 tonnes of corn and was expected to arrive in Turkish waters for inspection on Tuesday.
Ukraine’s infrastructure minister Oleksandr Kubrakov told the BBC that Razzoni was an important test to show that the deal would work, with Turkey aiding its safe navigation through dangerous waters.
There are concerns that while ships may be able to leave Ukraine with tonnes of grain, they might not be able to get affordable insurance to return for another load.
But Mr Kubrakov said he expected to see between one and three vessels going in both directions in the next few weeks, with empty ships coming to the port of Odesa from Turkey’s Bosporus Strait.
While the sight of the Razoni, with her, stowed white cranes and long blue hull, inching out into the mine-infested Black Sea represents a significant development, the operation will have to last for a sustained period for either Ukraine’s damaged economy or tens of millions of people around the world to benefit. Odesa MP Oleksiy Goncharenko told the BBC he expected shipments to continue from the other ports on Tuesday but warned Russia might attempt to disrupt them with further military action.