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Over 1,000 civilian ships defy Russia, transit Ukraine’s Black Sea “grain corridor”

Over 1,000 civilian vessels have exported around 30 million tons through Ukraine’s “grain corridor” in the Black Sea, defying Russian efforts to deter maritime traffic and undermine international support.
Ships grain corridor Black Sea
Ships await grain loading in Black Sea ports in July 2023. Photo: Ministry of Infrastructure
Over 1,000 civilian ships defy Russia, transit Ukraine’s Black Sea “grain corridor”

Over 1,000 civilian ships have transited Ukraine’s “grain corridor” in the Black Sea, despite Russia’s attempts to blockade the sea and persistent efforts to undermine international confidence in the corridor.

The Ukraine-established grain corridor has allowed Ukraine to resume maritime exports of agricultural commodities from its Black Sea ports amid the Russian sea blockade after the Russian withdrawal from the UN- and Türkiye-brokered so-called grain deal that allowed the Ukrainian grain exports as far as the Russians can inspect the ships.

On 9 March, US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink announced that 1,005 civilian ships had used the “grain corridor” from Ukrainian Black Sea ports, delivering approximately 30 million tons of cargo, including grain, to global markets:

Russia started the blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports from the beginning of its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

In August 2022, the first commercial vessel carrying Ukrainian grain left Odesa Port under the grain deal brokered by Türkiye and the UN. Over the subsequent year, Russia suspended the deal several times and delayed the inspection of the vessels, demanding to ease Western sanctions against Russia.

Finally, in July 2023, Russia withdrew from the deal along with a threat to consider all vessels as potential military targets.

Later in July, Ukraine informed the UN shipping agency about establishing a temporary shipping route to maintain grain shipments after Russia quit the Black Sea grain agreement. The temporary corridor has been adjacent to Romania and Bulgaria along the western Black Sea coast. In August, Ukraine announced temporary routes for commercial vessels sailing to and from Ukraine’s Black Sea seaports.

In August 2023, a civilian ship used the Ukrainian corridor to depart from a Ukrainian port for the first time, and in September 2023, a ship reached a Ukrainian port using the same corridor for the first time.

In summer 2023, Russian forces intensified attacks on Ukrainian grain and port infrastructure to pressure for concessions on renewing the expired Black Sea grain deal and to deter civilian maritime traffic through the corridor.

In January 2024, Oleksandr Kubrakov, Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Development of Communities, Territories, and Infrastructure, said in five months, almost 15 million tons of cargo, including 10 million tons of Ukrainian agricultural goods, have been exported through the Ukrainian Black Sea shipping corridor, with 469 new vessels calling at Ukrainian ports for loading.

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