International officials have completed checks of the first vessel to carry grains out of Ukraine under an UN-backed safe-passage scheme.
Inspection activity at the 29,300-dwt Razoni (built 1996) started at 10.00 local time (0700 GMT) in Istanbul and finished a little more than two hours later.
“The Joint Inspection Team has completed its inspection activity on board the Razoni,” the Turkish defence ministry,” which coordinates the effort, said in a tweet.
“The ship, which carries 27,000 tons of grain will pass through the Bosphorus to go to Lebanon in a short time,” the defence ministry added.
The Razoni departed Odesa early on Monday. It was the first vessel to be inspected at the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) of Ukrainian, Russian, Turkish and UN officials set up under an agreement on 22 July.
The object of the inspections is to make sure that vessels authorised to travel under the scheme carry nothing but approved grains, foodstuff or other eligible cargo — mainly fertiliser.
The Razoni, which is managed out of Turkey but is possibly controlled by Syrian interests, is scheduled to unload its grain in Tripoli, Lebanon. According to an official at the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP), the ship’s cargo is of a commercial rather than humanitarian nature.
More ships are in the pipeline to follow in the Razoni’s footsteps and depart from the blocked harbours of Odesa, Chornomorsk and Yuzhny.
“Preparations and planning of ships that can take out grain and similar foodstuffs from Ukraine’s three ports are continuing,” rear admiral Ozcan Altunbulak, a Turkish JCC official, told reporters in a briefing in Istanbul on Tuesday.
In a separate statement issued later on Wednesday, the JCC said it would use the experience gathered from the Razoni to facilitate the voyage of other ships.
“The joint inspection team had the opportunity to discuss with the crew and gain valuable information on the vessel's journey along the maritime humanitarian corridor in the Black Sea that was agreed by the JCC,” the statement said.
”The JCC will use this voyage in its ongoing work on fine tuning procedures and processes to enable the continuation of safe passage of commercial vessels across the Black Sea under the Initiative,” it added.
About 40 large bulkers from handies to capesizes have been blocked at Ukrainian ports since Russia invaded the country on 24 February.
One hot candidate to provide one of the next ships to leave Ukraine under the safe-passage scheme is the WFP.
The Rome-based organisation said on 1 August that it was planning to purchase, load and ship an initial 30,000 tonnes of wheat out of Ukraine on a UN-chartered vessel.
WFP spokesman Steve Taravella told TradeWinds the organisation is looking to arrange the voyage “as soon as possible”, though he acknowledged that is challenging.
“As you can imagine, given the context, in the middle of a conflict, there’s a lot to coordinate,” he said.