First grain shipment from Ukraine since war stuck after company refuses delivery

First grain shipment from Ukraine since war stuck after company refuses delivery
The M/Z Razoni at sea. Credit: Ukrainian Ministry of Infrastructure.

The first grain ship to leave Ukraine since the start of the war is waiting in the Mediterranean for a new destination after the Lebanese buyer refused the cargo of grain due to a delay in delivery terms.

After an agreement was signed by Kyiv and Moscow on 22 July — alongside the United Nations and Turkey — to lift the blockade on exports, last week the first vessel (M/V Razoni) left Ukraine since the start of the war in February, carrying 26,000 tonnes of grain to the Lebanese port of Tripoli.

However, on Monday evening, the Ukrainian embassy in Beirut announced that the final buyer refused to accept the cargo due to the delay. The order had arrived five months late because no ships could leave since the start of the war in Ukraine.

This was confirmed by the Istanbul-based Joint Coordination Centre (JCC), established under the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which is monitoring the safe passage of the vessels through the Safe Humanitarian Maritime Corridor.

"We have been told by Razoni's shipping agent in Istanbul that the cargo is being resold, which is why the ship is currently anchored and waiting for instructions for the new destination," Ismini Palla, Media and Communications Officer for the UN Coordinator at the JCC, told The Brussels Times.

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"The cargo being resold while en route is a common commercial practice, and not something the JCC controls or is involved in," she added.

A spokesperson for Lebanon's Ministry of Economy told Belga News Agency the government was not involved in the delivery, as the order was meant for the private sector.

Dampening hopes?

The news of the first shipment from Ukraine raised hopes that the trade would return back to normal levels, lowering food prices and easing the global food crisis, however, the news from the Ukrainian embassy in Beirut regarding the refusal of the cargo has dampened these hopes.

According to Bloomberg, the ship's difficult voyage so far shows the challenges that lie ahead in getting Ukraine's grain exports back to normal levels as long as the war continues.

However, Palla stressed that it is still early days for the operation. "When operations are full and running, we hope that exports will reach two to five million metric tons for the 120 days duration of the Initiative."

She added that all parties at the JCC recognised that this is a humanitarian initiative and they are working towards that goal. "At the same time though, we will not be able to control the commercial world," Palla concluded.

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