The situation for grain exports via the Black Sea had changed considerably since last September’s annual meeting of the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) in Edinburgh, noted IUMI president Frederic Denèfle, at the press conference following the Winter meeting of IUMI, held in London on February 6th.
Last September was a short time after Russia had declined to renew the Black Sea grain agreement, and the consensus was that Ukrainian exports via this route effectively would cease, said Denèfle. Few insurers were showing much appetite to offer affordable cover and few carriers were keen to risk their vessels.
However, Ukraine’s naval strength in the western Black Sea, including strikes against the Russian naval base in Crimea, enabled Ukraine to create a “coastal corridor”. Denèfle said that Russia had attempted to halt this traffic through attacks on the loading facilities and warehouses in the ports around Odesa, but this had not succeeded in more than part. Russia had not tried to attack vessels carrying the grain to Istanbul and beyond because (a) this would have been bad PR – killing innocent seafarers – and (b) Russia might not have had the naval capability to do so.
Ukraine was now claiming that it had exported 10m tonnes of grain since the ending of the Black Sea Grain Agreement.
However, Denèfle observed that Ukraine had declined to say how much of this was via the Black Sea, and how much was via “the Danube route”, the throughput capacity of which has increased significantly since Russia commenced its full-scale attack on Ukraine in February 2022.