France has transferred a second pilot vessel to Ukraine, a move aimed at bolstering the export of Ukrainian grain crops, Clement Beaune, the French Minister of Transport, announced on 25 December.
Despite the ongoing Russian blockade, Ukraine managed to export 7 million tons of cargo since August, of which nearly 5 million tons were agricultural products.
“France has delivered the second pilot ship to support Ukraine, as promised. Departing from Dunkirk, the vessel will assist in exporting grains to help feed the world. Our dedication is total, our solidarity will not cease,” Beaune said.
Russia maintains a de-facto blockade of Ukrainian seaports from the beginning of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Last summer, the UN and Türkiye brokered a “grain deal” with Russia to enable Ukrainian agricultural exports by sea. Russia, however, exited the deal this summer, jeopardizing the exports.
In response, Ukraine announced temporary routes for merchant vessels on 10 August 2023. The primary intent was to ensure civilian vessels could continue their operations amidst Russia’s increased maritime aggression, thereby demonstrating Ukraine’s commitment to safeguarding its maritime trade.
On 25 November, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that Ukraine had secured agreements to receive boats to protect cargo ships navigating the Black Sea grain corridor.
On 11 December, the British Ministry of Defence announced that the UK and Norway would co-lead a Maritime Capability Coalition, providing ships and transport to enhance Ukraine’s ability to operate at sea.