Ukraine corridor resumes after three-day pause

Ships were once-again moving along Ukraine’s Black Sea coastal corridor after what appeared to be a three-day stop in all traffic. These were said to have been a result of reports that Russian forces were again dropping explosive devices in the area. Russian activity was seen to be continuing, but the ships were again moving. Ukrainian officials denied that there had been a temporary suspension.

Kyiv-based Barva Invest consultancy said last Thursday that Ukraine earlier in the week suspended the use of its new Black Sea grain corridor due to what it sees as a threat from Russian warplanes.

“We would like to inform you of a temporary suspension of vessel traffic to and from (the ports). The current ban is in force on October 26, but it is possible that it will be extended,” the consultancy said on social media.

UK-based security firm Ambrey, and a specialized outlet, Ukrainian Ports, reported that Ukraine had suspended use of the corridor due to a possible threat from Russian warplanes and sea mines. Ukrainian officials denied this and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday the corridor would continue to function, despite threats.

Barva said a de facto suspension had already been in place for two days at the request of the military, which cited a threat from increased Russian military aviation activity in the area. Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that he had ordered Russian warplanes with Kinzhal missiles to patrol the Black Sea.

Ukrainian media reported late last week that a small convoy of ships had departed the Odesa area, heading for Romanian and then Bulgarian waters before reaching Istanbul in Turkiye.

Definite details are hard to come by because most of the ships turn off their AIS and do not declare a Ukrainian port as their destination. This has led to the odd situation of several vessels listed as heading from one Mediterranean port to another apparently deciding to go via the Black Sea.

Nevertheless, at least six ships were outbound, representing a broad array of the international community. The vessels Manassa Queen (IMO 9152478) and the Propus (IMO 9133757), both registered in Panama, were at the head of the convoy, which also included the Gloria G (IMO 9305099). Destinations ranged from Turkiye to the Suez Canal.

The initial departures from the Odesa area were followed by other ships, including the Pegasus (IMO 9755842), the Iasos (IMO 9233882), and, from Yuzhne, the Lucky Trader (IMO 9427574). The tanker Mavka (IMO 9284647) was also in the Odesa area.

Several other ships were inbound, while additional ones appeared to be holding in the anchorage near Sulina, Romania. Greece-linked bulker Calypso V (IMO 9381213)  had been holding to the south for several days before it arrived in Chornomorsk. It was being followed by the bulk carrier Sky Gate (IMO 9445136). Two other vessels, the Resilient Africa (IMO 9257204) and Golden Arrow (IMO 9194440) were inbound to the Odesa area. The Poland-linked Maranta (IMO 9206669) was heading into Yuzhne.

Ukraine’s vice prime minister Oleksandr Kubrakov reported that 11 ships were loading in the primary three Black Sea ports and would be exporting a further total of almost 225,000 tons of agricultural and metal products. He said that a total of 62 vessels had used the corridor launched by Ukraine in August.

Ukraine’s Infrastructure Administration issued a statement saying that “all the Navy established available routes are valid and used by civilian ships. Given that the corridor was implemented in the difficult conditions of Russian military aggression, its functioning takes into account the military environment and weather conditions.”

The Joint Coordination Centre of the Southern Operational Command for Ukraine continued to warn of the potential dangers on the route, writing in a daily update that “Russians continue to terrorize civilian shipping paths in the Black Sea by dropping controlled air bombs, bottom mines or other explosive objects.”

Despite the dangers, Zelensky emphasized on Friday October 27th that the corridor was functioning and that vessels would continue to service the ports, despite the dangers. The ports reported a total of 23 ships as loading in the three main Black Sea ports with Zelenskyy asserting that another 50 ships were expected to arrive soon. Four vessels left the ports on Friday, independent transport sector consultancy STC said. “On October 27th  vessel traffic in the temporary Black Sea corridor announced by Ukraine resumed,” STC said in a report.

Meanwhile, Ukraine said that it was imposing tighter controls over grain traders to boost revenues to fund its wartime defences, a move that could complicate shipments from the country’s Danube and Black Sea ports.

The Cabinet of Ministers will now require exporters of grains and oilseeds either to get licences or to provide tax records going back to before the February 2022 invasion, an official with knowledge of the matter told Reuters, asking not to be identified, to discuss decrees passed at a government meeting on Friday. The mechanism might be amended further, should the situation change, the official said.

The Ukrainian government is concerned at the apparent growth of fly-by-night companies. It wants to repatriate more foreign currency revenue and to raise tax collection rates. Ukraine’s international allies, which are providing billions of dollars of aid, were said to have raised concerns at Ukraine’s anti-corruption efforts. However, these actions were taking time; as a result, costs for traders were increasing as their cargoes suffered delays. Audits of exporters stalled agricultural shipments from ports in the Odesa region earlier this week, triggering numerous complaints, while traders shipping grain through the Danube said issues related to export documents had caused long delays in recent weeks.

“The sudden change in regulations has created problems for exporters and is causing further delays,” grain trader Filipe Pohlmann Gonzaga from Bryce SA said. He had chartered three vessels to pick up grain via the Sulina branch on the Romanian side of the Danube.

One trader said that bureaucracy, delays due to overcrowding of the Danube channel, bad weather, and de-mining operations together meant that it was taking almost twice as long as usual for ships to start loading. He told Reuters that one of his ships had been waiting 11 days to berth in Ukraine’s riverport of Reni, while a second had been waiting 14 days to get clearance to pass the Sulina channel and pick up its cargo in Izmail. He said that each day of delays could cost as much as $4,000 in extra demurrage costs.

Atria Brokers’ Christina Serebryakova said the changes in customs declarations for grain exports, together with long waiting times to pass the Sulina canal, meant that delays could now be up to one month or more. “Buyers are asking exporters for extra discounts,” she said. “Some vessels are being cancelled in Danube or Sulina, because traders are forced to take a pause in execution in order to restructure their work.”

1997-built Panama-flagged, 14,661 gt Manassa Queen shows up as the Captain Adam on Equasis (effective August 1st 2021), owned by Alvina Shipping & Trading Corp and managed by Medway Ship Management of Constanta, Romania. It shows up as Manassa Queen on the web site of American Club, with a policy that looks to have kicked in on October 1st 2023. As of October 28th it was in the Black Sea, close to the point on the Black Sea coast where Romania meets Bulgaria, en route to Alexandria, Egypt, ETA November 10th.

1997-built, Panama-flagged, 7,708 gt Propus is owned by Propus Maritime Ltd care of manager Promar Ltd of Odesa, Ukraine. As of October 28th the vessel was listed as heading for Diliskelesi, Turkiye, ETA October 29th, and was off the coast of where Bulgaria meets Turkiye.

2006-built, Liberia-flagged, 40,485 gt Gloria G is owned and managed by Pisces Overseas ltd of Monrovia, Liberia. It is entered with American Club on behalf of Pisces Overseas Ltd. As of October 28th it was at Istanbul Anchorage North, next stop Suez, ETA November 11th.

2018-built, Cayman Islands-flagged, 21,504 gt Pegasus is owned by Thor International Shipping care of Johann MK Blumenthal GmbH of Hamburg, Germany. ISM manager is Blumenthal Asia Pte Ltd of Singapore. It is entered with Skuld (Skuld Hamburg) on behalf of Blumenthal Asia Pte Ltd. As of October 27th the vessel was near to Odesa, listed as underway using engine, destination unknown.

2001-built, Turkiye-flagged, 29,999 gt Iasos is owned by Iasos Denizcilik care of Guinak Shipping Transport & Trading Inc of Ismir, Turkiye. It is entered with London Club on behalf of Gulnak Denizcilik. As of October 28th it was listed as Not Under Command, a short way north of Istanbul in the Black Sea.

2011-built, Barbados-flagged, 15,861 gt Lucky Trader is owned by BC Lucky Trader Shipping Inc care of manager FGM Chartering of Piraeus, Greece. ISM manager is Stallion Marine Services Ltd of Piraeus, Greece. It is entered with NorthStandard on behalf of BC Lucky Trader Shipping Inc. As of October 27th it was in the Black Sea near Odesa, listed as Underway Using Engine.

2004-built, Panama-flagged, 9,503 gt Mavka is owned and managed by Castilon Shipping International SA of Panama City, Panama. ISM manager is Sea Form Hamburg Eood of Varna, Bulgaria. It is entered with West P&I (Claims team Greece) as a crude oil tanker on behalf of Castilon Shipping International SA. As of October 27th it was underway off Odesa.

2007-built, Panama-flagged, 39,738 gt Calypso V is owned by Calypso Maritime ventures SA care of SR Navigation SA of Athens, Greece. It is entered with Swedish Club on behalf of Calypso Maritime ventures SA. As of October 27th it was listed as underway at Chornomorsk, Ukraine.

2008-built, San Marino-flagged, 16,960 gt Sky Gate is owned and managed by Sky Gate Maritime Co of Majuro, Marshall Islands. It is entered with Thomas Miller Specialty on behalf of VRS Maritime Services Ltd. As of October 27th the vessel was underway off Chornomorsk, named destination of Sulina, Romania, and an ETA of December 10th.

2001-built, Palau-flagged, 1,998 gt Resilient Africa is owned by Resilient Africa Ltd care of manager Chesva Enterprises Ltd of Limassol, Cyprus. ISM manager is HDR Denizcilik Nakliyat of Istanbul, Turkiye. As of October 27th it was underway off Odesa, having left Burga, Bulgaria on October 25th and with a listed destination of Sulina, Romania.

1999-built, Barbados-flagged, 8,486 gt Golden Arrow is owned by Jana Maritime Co care of Elkashawy Group Shipping Co of Damietta, Egypt. As of October 27th it was underway at Odesa Anchorage, next port of call unknown.

2000-built, Cameroon-flagged, 4,028 gt Maranta is owned by Oceanic International Shpg-Sey care of Dtschart Spzoo of Zyardow, Poland.