A new temporary “humanitarian corridor” has opened in the Black Sea and it is expected that the first ships will pass through it within a few days according to a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Navy, Oleg Chalyk.
“Vessels whose owners/captains officially confirm that they are ready to sail in the current conditions will be allowed to pass through the routes,” the Ukrainian Navy statement said. However, the navy also warned that risks from mines and military threats from Russia remained.
Daniil Melnychenko, a transport consultant for Informall, based in Odessa told Seatrade Maritime News, “This corridor has existed since the beginning of the war, Ukraine proposed it, however, there were no guarantees from the Russians that they would not attack or intercept the vessels. I do not think it can work without Russia giving those guarantees.”
Meanwhile, an anonymous Ukrainian official at Odessa Port told the BBC today that there are around 30 vessels stuck at Ukrainian ports in Chornomorsk, Odessa and Yuzhny, including tankers, bulk carriers and container ships. These vessels were abandoned by their crews who were repatriated and are waiting to be released.
“The grain corridor was not working because the Russia was sabotaging it all the way,” said the Odessa official and the delays for Russian inspections of Ukrainian freight “were enormous”, with average waiting times to exit the Bosphorus of four to six weeks.
“Russia made sure that Russian grain and Russian oil through the Bosphorus was actually going without any obstruction and Ukrainian cargoes were heavily stopped and inspected. So, right now we’re coming to a point where right now hopefully there will be an equilibrium, where Russians know we can attack their vessels, we know they can attack our vessels, and, hopefully, all of us can export things from the Black Sea.”
Nevertheless, Chalyk said, “The corridor will be very transparent, we will put cameras on the ships and there will be a broadcast to show that this is a purely a humanitarian mission and has no military purpose.”
Vessels such as the Primus, ex-Polarstar renamed this month, a 32,600dwt bulk carrier owned by Singapore company Blumenthal Asia and Joseph Schulte, and the Bernard Schulte owned Joseph Schulte, which is 10 years old and operated by MSC, have been at anchor in Odessa since the beginning of the war, unable to sail due to the risks posed.
It remains unclear whether ships such as these will take the risk to leave port under the protection of the Ukrainian Navy.
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