Movement of Ukrainian seaborne grain recovers

Seaborne Ukrainian grain flows via the Black Sea increased during the week January 16th to 22nd, with volumes up 82% week-on-week to 893,874 tonnes. Also increasing was the average cargo size, which was now trending at the highest levels since the start of the safe passage agreement in July 2022, according to an analysis of the UN’s Black Sea Grain Initiative Joint Coordination Centre data by S&P Global Commodity Insights.

The average cargo size for the week rose from the previous record of 41,414 tonnes (December 19th to 25th) to reach 47,046 tonnes, JCC data showed.

However, a chartering broker was less optimistic. He told Platts that there was “no improvement. Vessels in Odesa, Chornomorsk and Yuzhny (the three Ukrainian ports that are part of the Black Sea corridor) are not moving faster than before; there are big delays at the JCC (the joint coordination centre)”. The broker added that “electricity [at the port] is given in certain periods of time per day, for instance 09:00 to 12:00 in, and thereafter 12:00 to 16:00 out, but it’s always different.”

Cumulative grain shipments under the safe passage deal exceeded 18.33m tonnes as of Jan. 22, according to JCC data.

Citing unnamed market sources reported that the average waiting time had been hovering close to four to five weeks for inbound shipments, and about seven to 10 days for outward vessels.

One ship operator observed that “average age of vessels is way above 10 years and still mainly Handysize”.

It was also noted that rates were falling and the risk premium for the corridor was dwindling.

As of January 23rd there were 35 vessels are waiting for inspection: five of them waiting to move into Ukrainian ports and 30 loaded with cargo, waiting to sail to their global destinations, the JCC said January 22nd, noting that on that date it was planning to inspect nine vessels in total.

The largest cargo observed during week three of 2023 was a 74,904-tonne shipment of wheat, heading to Spain, aboard the 2019-built, 82,000 dwt Star Sapphire. That departed the terminals of Yuzhny/Pivdennyi on January 19th.

Of the grain flows during the period January 16th to 22nd almost 47% was heading to high-income destinations, with an additional 45% set for upper-middle-income countries. A mere 5% was shipping to lower-middle-income destinations, with only 3% on its way to low-income markets, according to JCC data.

Russia has long-complained that too much of the grain was being sent to EU countries rather than, as it says it was promised, to the developing world.