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Catched in Russia-Ukraine storm: a freighter and tons of grain

BERDYANSK, Ukraine (Reuters) – When the ship from Island Bay came from Beirut on the Kerch stretch, the gateway to…

BERDYANSK, Ukraine (Reuters) – When the ship from Island Bay came from Beirut on the Kerch stretch, the gateway to the Azores, it sailed to a perfect storm of geopolitics and bad weather.

Cranes and ships are seen in the Azores sea in Berdyansk, Ukraine November 30, 2018. Image taken November 30, 201

8. REUTERS / Gleb Garanich

On the following day, Russia opened fire on three Ukrainian naval vessels, shot them and detained their sailors, some of them hurt. It then barred the route by putting a tanker under a new bridge that has built to connect the Russian mainland to the Crimean Peninsula, enclosed from Ukraine in 2014.

While the world deepened the consequences of the November 25 event, the most explosive collapse was the In recent years, Russia said it had opened the canal to the Azores, shared by Russia and Ukraine.

But Island Bay remained at anchor outside the stretch, twisted by gale force winds and worn, hulled over the ice while cargo ships were gathered on either side.

On Monday, one week on, the captain reported that 20 ships were waiting for the crossing to pass. Refinitive data that day also showed that 20 Ukraine-bound ships had been on the stretch since November 25, with two other permissible genomes.

Meanwhile, Island Bay’s cargo was waiting for 5,500 tonnes of wheat, intended for flour mills in Libya, in the Ukrainian port of Berdyansk.

Sagittarius’s Saga is a window of leverage Moscow has across the Azores of Ukraine, affecting port workers, port operators, brokers and farmers who depend on the route.

Russia, whose coastguards began to inspect traffic in the Kerchsundet eight months ago, considered bad weather for the delay. But on Sunday, when the cloud was clearing, only a handful of ships went through; Monday evening, Island Bay began the captain’s frustration show.

“It is acceptable weather for transit. Coastal surveys have their own view,” said his log, as seen by Reuters. That day he reported that only two ships crossed the Azores.

Ukraine says hiatus is one of many since they Russian stain controls began in May when Russia opened the Kerch Bridge and disturbed exports of cereals and steel and imports of coal. Moscow denies possible disturbances.


In Berdyansk’s harbor where glacial ice-cream had recently been torn off the roof of a nearby shadow, Ascend Shipping staff read daily reports from Island Bay with growing concern.

The Ascet charges nearly one million tonnes of Ukrainian grain per year on cargo ships in Berdyansk and waited for loading Island Bay, its size means that every day of waiting time costs around $ 2,000 – $ 2,500, says Ascet’s chief executive, Denis Rusin.

This has made Berdyansk an unpopular port in recent months a.

“Shipowners do not want to go to Berdyansk,” said Rusin, whose customers include the US company Cargill [CARG.UL] one of the world’s largest bulk companies and tankers. “Buyers refuse to invest.”

Since Russia and Ukraine collapsed in the distance, Ukraine has introduced warfare in 10 regions, including the Azov Sea coast, highlighting the risks of doing business with Berdyansk.

“For us, it was the worst week in recent years,” said Rusin. “Customers have stopped considering the possibility of signing contracts for delivery in January, even less February or spring,” he said.


Some Ukrainian politicians have accused Moscow of attempting to crush the Azores port of Ukraine to prepare for an invasion from the East, followed by Krim’s annex and subsequent interruptions of Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.

Moscow says that the thought is a fantasy dreamed by Ukraine’s pro-western leader for elections next year. It says it is entitled to patrol the strait.

But Berdyan companies say patrols target ships bound to Ukraine and cause harmful delays.

The recent escalation escalation has not affected ships that will collect grain from the Russian side of the Azores, according to Sergei Filipov, head of the QAM7 Dubai trading company, which operates there. He said inspections have delayed the trip with the usual two or three days.

On its eleventh day at anchor in the Kerch stretch, with skis on finally clear, Island Bay reported to Berdyansk: “We called everywhere to have guards inspect the ship, but their intentions can not be explained.”

The situation has sent Rusin racing to further revise their business forecasts.

Climbed out on the windshield roof at his office on Friday, he pointed to a single truck of grain where several trucks used to rise along the quayside.

“We expected to charge about 150,000 tonnes in the next three months … Perhaps 200,000,” he said. Now the company is preparing for everything between 50,000 tonnes and no business at all, he said.

“This was a change of plan that happened this week.”

The Azov Sea grain chain represents only 2 to 3 percent of Ukraine’s agricultural exports, said Deputy Governor Dmitry Sologub. But for the southeastern Zaporozhye region, home to 1.8 million people, it is critical.

At the government’s port authority in Berdyansk, officials said they feared for the future of the port because customers are looking at other places with direct access to the Black Sea.

“Of course, we prefer (to use other ports)”, says Erdem Sekreter, naval manager at Turks Bayraktar Shipping Group, which has two ships waiting to cross the Kerch route to reach the Ukrainian coast.

“It will be more expensive for shipowners to go to the Azores – the Ukrainian side of course,” he added. “We are paying out of pocket now.”


The Bison Group owns 40,000 hectares of farmland in the Zaporozhye region and exports much of its harvest through Berdyansk.

With shipowners increasing shipping costs to factor in the new risks in the Azores, costs will be sent to grain producers, said Deputy Director Igor Serov. “It really hits agricultural farmers.”

Prices must fall by at least $ 10 per tonne, a trader at Atria Brokers, dealing with Berdyan-grain, said.

But manufacturers may not have other options. Railway infrastructure is not in place to send exports via Black Sea ports instead, says Serov and transferring grain by truck to Odessa would cost an extra $ 40 per ton.

Buyers also go back, afraid of the risks.

“Our sales have fallen,” said Atria trader. “It has affected us fundamentally.”

Every day the bay bug sits in the harbor, it sets up costs for traders. Cereals can destroy, and storage costs are steep.

“The market is suffering … everyone along the chain pays the price for these war games,” said a grain producer, and was declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the situation.

On Tuesday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Agriculture said that some grain transports from the Azores had resumed.

Slideshow (7 Images)

Five of the 14 vessels that led to the Ukrainian port of Mariupol, held since the stand-off, were still waiting to cross Wednesday, revealed Refinitive data. One had returned to Istanbul.

Compared with the ships aimed at one of the Russian towns of Rostov-Don ports, which arrived at the Kerch Strait since its inception, no one was still waiting for passage, the data showed the same day.

Only one of the six boats that led to Berdyansk had crossed Wednesday. After 12 days at anchor in the water near the strait, Island Bay was still waiting.

Further reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Natalia Zinets in KIEV and Polina Devitt in MOSCOW; Editing Philippa Fletcher

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