First bulk vessels booked for Ukraine since end of grain deal: trade

14 Sep 2023 | Masha Belikova

Ukrainian grain exporters could be close to loading the first bulk agriculture vessels from the country's deep water ports since the end of the Black Sea grain corridor initiative in July, trade sources have told Agricensus. 

If true, the move could pose a serious challenge to the Russian-imposed blockade of Ukrainian ports that has followed the collapse of the agreement and likely will be closely watched by market participants. 

Rumours first surfaced at the beginning of the week suggesting that the first bulk vessels exporting grains from Ukraine's key deep water ports had been fixed for loading, with coasters, and handysize volumes mentioned and potentially a panamax thought to have been booked.

The vessels are expected to sail to the Ukrainian Black Sea ports of Odesa, Chornomorsk, or Pivdenniy in the near future for loading, potentially making them the first vessels to enter the region since the end of the grain deal back on July 17.

No details were available on who had charted the vessels or, critically, how the insurance had been covered, but some sources suggested that it might be some of the multinational companies that could be the first to try it.

However, others have said that it would be more logical for Ukrainian companies to do it first amid better connections with the Ukrainian government to get insurance.

Trade sources have named the vessels that are believed to have been fixed but Agricensus has not been able to confirm the reports.

According to ship tracking software, one is a vessel with a 3,275 mt summer deadweight, a second weighing 18,315 mt with a third vessel listed as 32,834 mt deadweight. 

Maritime shipping services do not currently show a final destination as a Ukrainian port for any of the vessels, but two of them are listed as being in Romanian waters close to the Danube port of Sulina and just outside the port of Constanta.

The final vessel was last seen off the coast of Libya.  

For the panamax vessel, trade sources suggested that the vessel had been booked for China with freight rate discussed at around $62-65/mt, but no further details were available.


The main concern in the trade is how the Black Sea terminals will be operating, as trade sources expect more attacks from Russia on the facilities along Ukraine's coast - particularly the increased risk should the vessels arrive in port.

And, unlike the Danube, where most of the recent Russian attacks have been carried out by drones, Black Sea ports would be expected to attract heavier missiles that could cause bigger damage.

Ukrainian naval forces declared their own humanitarian corridor open back on August 10, allowing vessels to leave and arrive into the key deep water ports. 

While four vessels that had been trapped in port since before the invasion began were able to leave Ukraine, no vessels have yet entered the region.

However, despite many serious questions and concerns around how any such movement would work, Ukraine-based trade sources have expressed their hopes around the route restarting.

Ukraine is expected to host a bumper crop once again, despite the ongoing war, and currently logistics are the major bottleneck for the country's export flow.

The main export route is limited a handful of relatively small volume options - including Danube ports, which have been under near constant attacks, trains and trucks through the borders with EU neighbouring countries.

The cross-border exports have caused tension with Ukraine's EU neighbors however, and have once again led to the question of continuing an import ban on Ukrainian agricultural products being raised.

As such, the current export logistics chain does not look stable, and any alternative route would prove crucial.