UN ship carrying Ukraine grain to Africa stuck in port

The Brave Commander vessel was set to carry food aid for Ethiopia as part of UN-led efforts to help countries at risk of famine.

United Nations official Denise Brown, Deputy Country Director at World Food Programme Marianne Ward and Ukraine's Infrastructure minister Oleksandr Kubrakov attend a news briefing in font of the bulk carrier Brave Commander.
United Nations officials Denise Brown and Marianne Ward hold a press conference with Ukraine's Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov in front of the bulk carrier Brave Commander [Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters]
Correction15 Aug 2022
Corrects to report the vessel is still docked at a Ukraine port, according a global ship-tracking website.

A United Nations-chartered ship loaded with 23,000 metric tonnes of Ukrainian grain destined for Ethiopia remains docked at a Black Sea port, according to tracking website Marine Traffic on Monday.

News reports earlier said the Lebanese-flagged Brave Commander left on Sunday from the port of Pivdennyi, in the city of Yuzhne, regional Governor Maksym Marchenko was cited as saying.

It planned to sail to Djibouti where the grain would be unloaded and transferred to Ethiopia, one of five countries the UN considers at risk of starvation.

However, a World Food Programme (WFP) source contacted Al Jazeera to say the ship was still docked, and a search on Marine Traffic confirmed Brave Commander was still moored.

It was unclear why the vessel remained at port in Ukraine, and why earlier reports suggested it had left.

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Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov was in Yuzhne to oversee the ship’s loading. “I hope that other ships chartered by the World Food Programme will come to our ports. I hope there will soon be two, three more ships,” he said.

The cargo was funded with donations from WFP, the US Agency for International Development, and several private donors.

Ukraine and Russia reached a deal with Turkey on July 22 to restart Black Sea grain deliveries, addressing the major export disruption that has occurred since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Brink of famine

The first commercial ship carrying grain, the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni, left on August 1 and was approaching the Syrian port of Tartus on Sunday.

In total, 16 vessels have departed from Ukraine since the July deal, according to Kyiv.

The WFP said a record 345 million people in 82 countries face acute food insecurity and up to 50 million people in 45 countries are on the brink of famine and risk being tipped over the edge without humanitarian support.

Elena Faige Neroba, a business development manager at the brokerage company Maxigrain, told Al Jazeera that Ukraine is “ready to supply more than 50 million metric tonnes of agricultural products”.

“The main challenge is [posed by] floating mines,” she said. “Ship owners are waiting to see how the passage of other vessels goes.”

Neroba added departures from a significant exporter such as Ukraine will help reduce the price of food items globally.

Food prices dropped 8.6 percent in July from the previous month, particularly because of lower wheat and vegetable oil prices, according to the UN index.

However, food prices remain significantly higher compared to last year.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies