Ukraine cites Russian delays as grain corridor vessel inspections fall to lowest rate yet

26 Jan 2023 | Masha Belikova

The number of Ukrainian grain vessels departing Istanbul after concluding inspections has dropped in January to its lowest rate recorded since the scheme was initiated, with Ukrainian authorities pointing the finger firmly at Russian inspection teams on Thursday.

The delays have been accentuated by weather issues, but an official note from Ukraine's agriculture ministry blames intentional delays on the part of Russian inspections teams in the port of Istanbul.

During January the pace was standing at 2.7 vessels per day, but in recent days it has dropped even lower, to just 2.5 ships per day - around a 40% drop compared to the pace shown back in the September-October period, when the flow was in full swing.

"This was actually considered one of the lowest indicators for all the months of the existence of the 'grain initiative'. It is predominantly due to the blocking of the grain corridor by Russian inspectors," a note from the ministry said.

Vessels of over 15,000 mt tend to be prioritised and inspected first - meaning smaller ships can wait longer - in a move that has likely allowed the average daily tonnage of the vessels inspected holding stable at 37,000 mt. 

But the overall export flow has dropped markedly, with January's total now standing at 2.4 million mt of agriculture products, compared to 4.2 million mt back in October.

That also comes as the waiting time for inbound inspections holds at around 20 days on average, with some vessels currently needing to wait up to 40 days.

The grain deal was signed back in July between Ukraine, Turkey, and the UN along with a mirror agreement with Russia that would guarantee a safe corridor for vessels leaving Ukraine through key deep water Black Sea ports. 

The deal was also extended on November 17 for another 120 days.