Ukraine Opens Temporary Black Sea Corridor Amidst Tense Russia Relations

Ukraine saw the successful passage of a second container ship through its temporary Black Sea corridor on Saturday.

by Faruk Imamovic
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Ukraine Opens Temporary Black Sea Corridor Amidst Tense Russia Relations
© Getty Images News/Chris McGrath

Ukraine saw the successful passage of a second container ship through its temporary Black Sea corridor on Saturday. This decisive move came in response to Russia's cessation of a wartime agreement that ensured the safe export of grain from Ukraine's besieged ports.

The Black Sea corridor, an alternative to the strained Russian route, may well become a new lifeline for the conflict-ridden nation. The Primus, a bulk carrier flying the Liberian flag, embarked on its journey from the port of Odessa that morning, heading towards the Bulgarian port of Varna.

Maritime traffic tracking data confirmed its course, while Ukrainian MP Oleksii Honcharenko punctuated the occasion by sharing a photo of the ship's departure on his Telegram channel.

Beijing's Role Raises Eyebrows

The latest passage follows in the wake of another vessel's journey: the Joseph Schulte, a container ship registered in Hong Kong, which had previously been anchored in Odessa before Russia's invasion.

The voyage of this Hong Kong-flagged vessel has generated speculation among analysts. Given China's political proximity to Russia, some experts suggest that this affiliation might have smoothed the ship's passage. The question that now lingers is whether ships from other nations will dare to tread these turbulent waters.

Kiev's new maritime route, established on August 10, is currently awaiting validation from the International Maritime Organization. However, the risks are palpable. With US and Ukrainian officials raising alarms over potential Russian assaults on civilian vessels in the Black Sea, the looming threat of sea mines and soaring insurance costs for ship operators make these voyages treacherous.

Russia's Withdrawal Sends Ripples Through Black Sea Trade

Russia's exit from the grain accord on July 17 was abrupt and controversial. Kremlin officials justified the withdrawal, stating that their demands concerning the facilitation of Russian food and fertilizer shipments were unfulfilled.

The timing was questionable, as it closely followed a rocket and drone attack on a bridge connecting the Crimean peninsula with Russia – an assault that left two casualties and stained the Kremlin's reputation. Although Russian representatives deny any link between their withdrawal and the subsequent attack, the termination of the Safe Navigation Agreement seems retaliatory.

Before this dramatic severance, Odessa's three seaports were pivotal, channeling tens of millions of tons of grain via the Black Sea initiative. Since then, Ukrainian ports have faced relentless assaults from Russian missiles and kamikaze drones. The resilience of Ukrainian trade and its future in the Black Sea now lies in the balance.

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