UN concerned about ship shortage at Ukrainian port Ship’s crew

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By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS, May 22 (Reuters) – The United Nations on Monday expressed concern that Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Pivdennyi (Yuzhny) has been closed since May 2 under a deal allowing safe wartime grain and fertilizer exports , has received no more ships.

UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric did not say who was to blame for the lack of ships calling at the port near Odessa, where Russia also used to pump up to 2.5 million tons of ammonia a year for export via a pipeline from Togliati.

This pipeline has been idle since Moscow invaded neighboring Ukraine in February 2022. Before the war in Ukraine, Russia exported 4.4 million tons of ammonia annually – 20% of the world sea trade.

The Black Sea Grains Agreement negotiated by the United Nations and Turkey last July allows ammonia to be exported safely and Russia is pushing for the pipeline to be operational again. Russia last week agreed to a two-month extension of the Black Sea Agreement.

But a Ukrainian government source told Reuters on Friday that Kiev would consider allowing Russian ammonia to transit its territory for export if the Black Sea Grains Agreement were expanded to include more Ukrainian ports and a wider range of goods.

The Black Sea grain trade faltered last week as Russia decided whether to go ahead. Under the agreement, a Joint Coordination Center (JCC) in Istanbul — made up of officials from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations — will approve and inspect incoming and outgoing ships.

Dujarric said nine ships have been inspected and cleared since the contract extension, five of which are currently loading cargo in Ukraine’s ports of Odessa and Chornomorsk.

RUSSIAN DEMANDS

Dujarric said the JCC currently has 17 applications from vessels wishing to travel to Ukraine and that seven have been approved and are now awaiting consideration.

“No ships wanting to load food in Yuzhny/Pivdennyi port have been allowed to register,” he told reporters. “The port of Yuzhny/Pivdennyi has not received any ship since May 2nd. We are concerned about this restriction and once again call for the full resumption of operations.”

More than 30 million tons of food were exported from Ukrainian ports under the Black Sea Agreement, and Dujarric said Pivdennyi (Yuzhny) port accounted for more than a third of those shipments. He noted that fertilizers, including ammonia, have not yet been exported under the Black Sea Agreement.

Russia had threatened not to renew the agreement unless a list was presented requirements related to barriers to domestic food and fertilizer exports. The restart of the ammonia pipeline is one of these demands that the United Nations is trying to convey.

Another important demand from Russia is the reconnection of the state-owned agricultural bank Rosselkhozbank to the international payment network SWIFT. Due to the invasion of Ukraine, it was cut off from SWIFT by the European Union in June.

EU foreign policy spokesman Peter Stano told Reuters that the EU is not considering debt restructuring of Russian banks.

The Kremlin said on Monday that the EU’s reluctance to reconnect Russia’s state-owned agricultural bank to SWIFT showed the union’s “non-constructive stance” on the Black Sea Grains Agreement.

As an alternative to SWIFT, the United Nations suggested that other banks could also process payments. Reuters has reported that JPMorgan processed the first payment for the Russian Agrarian Bank and was able to help with it dozens more transactions.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Editing by Christina Fincher)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2023.

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