KYIV - Two cargo vessels were headed to Ukrainian ports on Saturday, the first to use a temporary corridor to sail into Black Sea ports and load grain for African and Asian markets, a senior Ukrainian government official told Reuters. Last month Ukraine announced a "humanitarian corridor" in the Black Sea to release ships trapped in its ports since the start of the war in February 2022 and circumvent a de facto blockade after Russia abandoned a deal to let Kyiv export grain. Five vessels have so far left the port of Odesa, using the corridor which hugs the western Black Sea coast near Romania and Bulgaria. Ukraine, a leading global food producer and exporter, also wants to use the corridor for its food exports. Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said that two bulk carriers "Resilient Africa" and "Aroyat" ships were already on their way in the Black Sea to the Ukrainian ports to load almost 20,000 tons of wheat for Africa and Asia. Shipping data showed both vessels on routes in the northern Black Sea.
The loadings are a test of Ukraine's ability to reopen sea lanes at a time when Russia is trying to re-impose its de facto blockade, having abandoned the grain deal in July. Moscow has launched frequent drone and missile attacks on the Ukrainian grain export infrastructure. This week, Ukraine has made several attacks using sea drones and missiles on Russia's Black Sea naval fleet in and around the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014.