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Ukraine may use new Black Sea route for grain shipments: Producers

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Ukraine is considering using its newly-tested wartime Black Sea export corridor for grain shipments after other cargo ships follow the first successful evacuation of a vessel on the route last week, a senior agricultural official said on Monday.

Russia has blockaded Ukrainian ports since it invaded its neighbour in Feb. 2022 and threatened to treat all vessels as potential military targets after pulling out of a UN-backed safe passage deal last month.

In response, Ukraine announced a “humanitarian corridor” hugging the sea’s western coastline near Romania and Bulgaria. A Hong Kong-flagged container ship stuck in Odesa port since the invasion travelled the route last week without being fired upon.

“Only one commercial vessel has passed through so far, it has shown readiness to move by alternative routes,” Denys Marchuk, deputy head of the Agrarian Council, Ukraine’s largest agribusiness organisation, told national television.

“Further, there should be a movement of potentially 7-8 more ships… then perhaps in the future these alternative routes will become a corridor for the movement of ships that are travelling with cargoes of grain and oilseeds,” he said.

The Financial Times said Kyiv was finalising a scheme with global insurers to cover grain ships travelling to and from its Black Sea ports, citing Ukraine’s Deputy Economy Minister Oleksandr Gryban.

Ukraine is a global major grain grower and exporter and normally ships millions of metric tons of food from its deep-water Black Sea ports of Odesa and Mykolaiv, but has had to rely on its Danube river ports after Russia pulled out of the deal.

To attract ship owners to Ukrainian ports which have come under fire from Russian forces, Marchuk said Ukraine had already allocated 20 billion hryvnias ($547 million) for ship insurance.

“Not all ship owners will dare to put their ships in an uncertain environment,” he added.

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