The UN has said that it anticipated a major increase in the number of ships wanting to export Ukraine grain through the Black Sea. Frederick Kenney, interim UN Coordinator at the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) in Istanbul, said that a goal of 2m to 5m tonnes a month was achievable.
By the weekend 14 ships that had been stuck in Ukraine since February 24th had been authorized to leave with four more approved for travel to Ukraine. The number of inbound ships was expected to grow as grain sales are agreed, Kenney said.
The UN is emphasizing that this is a commercial rather than humanitarian operation. All ships are required to be inspected to allay Russian concerns they could be smuggling weapons into Ukraine.
Kenney said that this week there would be “a comprehensive review of procedures early next week to see what needs to be tweaked and improved”.
He said that the current priority was to free up pier space at the three ports covered by the deal – Odesa, Chornomorsk and Yuzhne – to enable new ships to come in and load cargo.
When the ports were locked in on February 24th, the corn harvest was coming in, meaning that the silos are full of corn, said Kenney.
“It’s imperative upon us now to get those ships out so that we can bring ships in to load cargoes that will be destined for ports that will contribute to reducing global food insecurity. But really any ship that goes out with Ukrainian grain is going to help the situation,” said Kenney.
He said there were a number of empty grain vessels anchored in Turkey waiting for sales to be arranged so they could travel to Ukraine to collect cargo.