In August, Ukraine launched an alternative maritime corridor that passes through the territorial waters of NATO countries. Despite Russia’s threats to shell ships heading to Ukrainian ports, all three Black Sea ports in Ukraine have resumed receiving vessels for grain exports. The unblocking of the maritime ports is important for Ukraine, as it represents the most cost-effective trade route for Ukrainian exporters. This will help provide employment for the country’s metallurgical plants and expedite the recovery of the economy.
Since September 16, when the first ship entered a Ukrainian port after the rupture of the «grain agreement,» more than 30 vessels have successfully used the alternative maritime corridor, and their number is increasing weekly. There is also a trend of increasing the carrying capacity of the vessels. According to the monitoring group of the Black Sea Institute for Strategic Studies, on October 14, the loading of three ships that left Ukrainian ports reached 347,000 tons compared to 230,000 tons on October 12. At least nine ships that entered the Black Sea ports of Ukraine were Panamax-type vessels, according to the Bloomberg agency. These types of ships are among the largest grain carriers in the world. This indicates that international companies are increasingly trusting the new maritime corridor. According to the agency’s estimates, Ukraine was able to export 1.4 million tons of grain and metals during the use of the alternative maritime corridor. It should be noted that the «grain agreement» allowed for the export of only grain, food products, and fertilizers.
Moreover, if in the first weeks of the operation of the alternative corridor, ship insurance rates reached 3-4% of the cargo’s value, then over the past two weeks, the rates have decreased on average to 2%. It is projected that they will further decrease to 1.3-1.5% in the near future. According to a representative of one of the major Ukrainian companies, freight rates for this period have decreased from $52 per ton at the beginning of the new maritime route’s operation to $25-26 in recent weeks.
All of this was facilitated by successful Ukrainian attacks on the Russian fleet, forcing it to relocate from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk. Another factor contributing to the development of the new route is the commencement of the joint mine-sweeping group of the Romanian and Bulgarian navies, consisting of seven ships — one Romanian and six Bulgarian. The sweepers are involved in the search and neutralization of mines along the coast of Bulgaria, but they are not limited to the territorial waters (12-mile zone) of this country. The operation extends to the adjacent waters through which the bulk carriers of the new Ukrainian grain corridor pass.
The successes in the operation of the new grain corridor indicate that Russia was an unnecessary link in the Black Sea grain initiative.