KYIV, UKRAINE — Ukraine sees faster ship inspections, rather than opening additional ports, as the key to increasing its exports under the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Reuters reported, citing a senior Ukrainian government official.
A major wheat, corn and sunflower oil producer, Ukraine has been unable to reach its export potential since Russia invaded the country on Feb. 24 and began blockading its seaports. Three leading Black Sea ports were freed up in July under a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey and signed by Ukraine and Russia. Under the deal, all ships are inspected by joint teams in the Bosphorus.
Ukraine exported about 7 million tonnes of agricultural products in September and October and 6 million tonnes in November, but shipments fell to less than 4 million tonnes in December. Ukraine attributed the drop to a slowdown of inspections, which it blamed on Russia. Russia has denied slowing down the process.
“Ukraine focuses on normalizing inspections rather than opening new ports,” the senior Ukrainian official told Reuters. Referring to a port that is not part of the deal, the official said: “Why open the port of Mykolaiv if at the current rate of exports we can close half of the ports of Odesa, which are already open?”Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry said 94 vessels were waiting for inspection in the Bosphorus, including 69 empty vessels for loading and 25 that had already been loaded with agricultural products. Vessels are waiting for an average of more than a month, the ministry said.