Ukraine grain heads to Lebanon after wartime deal delayed

BEIRUT-

The scheduled arrival on 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 Ukrainian embassy said.

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

Lebanese Transport Minister Ali Hamie tweeted that the ship “which was supposed, according to rumors, to arrive at the port of Tripoli in Lebanon” changed status. Hamie declined to comment further when contacted by The Associated Press.

The ship left Odessa last Monday with Ukrainian corn and then passed inspection in Turkey. She was supposed to arrive at the northern port of Tripoli around 10 am on Sunday. According to Marine Traffic, the ship on Saturday changed her status to “on order,” meaning the ship was waiting for someone to buy the corn.

The Ukrainian embassy in Beirut said the ship’s arrival was postponed, adding that “an update on the ceremony will be sent later when we get information on the exact day and time of the ship’s arrival.”

The shipment that was supposed to arrive in Lebanon comes at a time when the tiny Mediterranean nation is suffering from a food security crisis, with skyrocketing food inflation, wheat shortages and bread queues. The ship carries some 26,000 tons of corn 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 maritime corridors in the Black Sea to export agricultural products desperately needed by Ukraine as Russia’s war with its neighbor continues.

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

Economic collapse rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement was made worse by a massive explosion in August 2020 that destroyed Beirut’s port and the country’s main grain silos inside the sprawling facility. Large parts of the silos have collapsed in recent days following a fire caused by leftover grain that began to ferment and caught fire in the summer heat last month.

Lebanese officials said last week that the Razoni was supposed to leave Ukraine for 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 corn left Ukrainian ports and traveled through mined waters to inspect their delayed cargo, a sign that the international agreement to export grains that has stood since Russia invaded Ukraine was making progress. slowly.

Four more ships carrying agricultural cargo held up by the war in Ukraine were cleared Sunday to leave the country’s Black Sea ports.

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