Russian air strikes on Odesa revive worries about safety of grain shipments

The Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odesa was struck by Russian rockets overnight Wednesday August 17th / Thursday August 18th, apparently in retaliation for recent strikes by Ukraine deep into Crimea that Russia has denied took place.

The attacks have revived worries over the security of the grain shipment programme out of Ukrainian ports and across the Black Sea to various destinations via a checkpoint near Istanbul.

It was reported by a Russian state news agency yesterday that Russia had replaced the commander of its Crimea-based Black Sea fleet. Russia’s RIA news agency cited sources as saying the commander of its Black Sea fleet, Igor Osipov, had been replaced with a new chief, Viktor Sokolov.

The Turkish Ministry of Defence said on Thursday morning that “grain shipments from Ukrainian ports continue as planned. As of the morning of August 17th, four more vessels carrying sunflower meal, sunflower oil, and corn departed from the Ukrainian ports of Odesa and Chornomorsk.”

The Turkish Defence Ministry’s identification of vessels is patchy, as it does not include IMOs and does not always include any names at all, making double-counting a possibility. However, as of August 18th the Ministry claimed that 26 vessels had been cleared to export goods from Ukrainian ports, although it was not certain that they had all already started sailing.

Serhil Bratchuk, a spokesperson for the military command in Odesa, had reported details of the latest round of Russian attacks on the city. He said that the Russians had fired anti-ship missiles from airplanes, a tactic the Russians have used before in attacking cities in Ukraine. He appeared to be trying to say the damage was contained and not near the port. He reported damage to a recreation centre, with four people being injured. He also said that there was a fire raging covering a 600m/sq area of the city. CNN showed photos of a building they identified as a hotel that had been damaged in the overnight attacks.

Russia had attacked Odesa only hours after the grain deal was struck last month, That attack, the motive for which was puzzling, struck areas in the port, but was before vessel exports. Since then the three ports being used for exports have been free from attack.

Ukraine’s Infrastructure Ministry, which is overseeing the agricultural programmes, said earlier this week that 30 ships had applied to come to Ukraine over the next two weeks.

Three more identifiable ships left Ukrainian Black Sea ports on August 17th. The Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) in Istanbul said that bulk carrier Sara (IMO 9259020), carrying 8,000 tonnes of corn, and chemical/oil products tanker Efe (IMO 9558763), carrying 7,250 tonnes of sunflower oil, both left Odesa port and were bound for Turkey. The Petrel S (IMO 9363883), which was loaded with 18,500 tonnes of sunflower meal, left Chornomorsk and was headed to Amsterdam, the JCC said, adding that it had inspected four inbound ships on Wednesday.

Ukraine expected five ships to arrive at its Chornomorsk port on Wednesday, which would be the largest convoy to arrive in Ukrainian ports in a single day since exports began on August 1st.

The Brave Commander (IMO 9136931) (see yesterday’s IMN) carrying the first cargo of food aid bound for Africa under the deal, transited Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait on Wednesday evening. The JCC said that the Brave Commander  and three other ships would be inspected on Thursday August 18th before they were approved to continue to their final destinations.

One more ship, a Belize-flagged ship carrying corn, left Chornomorsk, the Turkish National Defence Ministry said on Thursday.

2003-built, Palau-flagged, 6,290 gt Sara is owned by Silver Maritime Ltd MTA care of manager Sio Shipping Ltd of Baku, Azerbaijan. As of August 18th the vessel was underway to Istanbul, ETA August 18th.

2010-built, Vanuatu-flagged, 5,590 gt Efe is owned by Efe Maritime Co care of manager Torlak Gemi Isletmecilik Sanayi ve Ticaret Ltd Sti of Istanbul, Turkey. It is entered with Standard Club (London Class) on behalf of Efe Maritime Co. As of August 18th it was underway from Odesa to Toros, Turkey, ETA August 22nd.

2006-built, Liberia-flagged, 11,674 gt Petrel S is owned and managed by Petrel Shipping & Trading Ltd of Majuro, Marshall Islands. As of August 18th it was underway, approaching Istanbul from the Black Sea side.