Ukrainian grain bound for Lebanon under delayed war deal

By BASSEM MROUÉ
Associated press

BEIRUT (AP) — The scheduled arrival Sunday of the first grain ship to leave Ukraine and cross the Black Sea under a wartime deal has been delayed, a Lebanese cabinet minister and the Lebanese embassy said. ‘Ukraine.

The cause of the delay was not immediately clear and Marine Traffic, which monitors vessel traffic and vessel locations at sea, showed the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni at anchor in the Mediterranean Sea near Turkey .

Lebanese Transport Minister Ali Hamie tweeted that the ship “which was rumored to reach the port of Tripoli in Lebanon” has changed status. Hamie declined to comment further when contacted by The Associated Press.

The ship left Odessa last Monday carrying Ukrainian corn and then passed an inspection in Turkey. It was due to arrive in the northern port of Tripoli around 10 a.m. Sunday. According to Marine Traffic, the vessel changed its status to “on order” on Saturday, meaning the vessel was waiting for someone to buy the corn.

The Ukrainian Embassy in Beirut said the ship’s arrival had been postponed, adding that “an update on the ceremony will be sent later when we have information on the exact day and time of the arrival. ‘arrival of the ship’.

The shipment that was due to arrive in Lebanon comes at a time when the small Mediterranean country is suffering from a food security crisis, with rising food inflation, wheat shortages and queues. The ship is carrying some 26,000 tonnes of maize for chicken feed.

The ship’s passage was the first under a groundbreaking deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations with Russia and Ukraine. The four sides signed agreements last month to create safe shipping corridors in the Black Sea to export agricultural products that Ukraine desperately needs as Russia’s war on its neighbor continues.

Lebanon’s worst economic crisis in its modern history, which began in late 2019, has left three-quarters of its population living in poverty while the Lebanese pound has lost more than 90% of its value.

The economic collapse rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement was compounded by a massive explosion in August 2020 that destroyed the Port of Beirut and the country’s main grain silos inside the sprawling facility. Large parts of the silos have collapsed in recent days after a fire caused by leftover grain which began to ferment and burst into flames in the summer heat last month.

Lebanese officials said last week that the Razoni was supposed to leave Ukraine and travel to Lebanon on February 24, but the departure was delayed by the war that broke out days later.

On Friday, three more ships carrying thousands of tons of maize left Ukrainian ports and passed through mined waters to inspect their delayed cargo, a sign that the international grain export deal suspended since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia was progressing slowly.

Four other ships carrying agricultural goods stranded by war in Ukraine received permission to leave the country’s Black Sea ports on Sunday.