As the Russia-Ukraine War has intensified over the past two months, amid a Ukrainian counteroffensive in Eastern Ukraine and Russian retaliation in the form of further blocking Ukrainian grain exports, things have been at a stalemate on the grain shipping/trade front – until now.
Beginning last week, Ukraine is now utilizing a new shipping route to export its grain to the world.
After Russia blocked Ukraine’s use of key ports in the Black Sea, a crucial body of water for trade in the region, Ukraine was boxed out from traditional export routes. Now, starting last week, Ukraine began testing its replacement shipping route – along the Romanian coast. Romania is a NATO member, which provides safety and cover for Ukraine to use in its trade operations. In its inaugural test, two vessels carrying wheat exports successfully reached their destination, with one arriving in Turkey. There were, thankfully, no incidents.
This week, three additional ships have started using the route – a key test for its viability.
With three more vessels using the route this week, so far without issue, there is hope for a cleaner, safer route for Ukrainian grain exports, which are a crucial export for the world. When the war started in February 2022, there were fears that grain exports would be completely blocked and would cause certain populations around the world to have severe food shortages. Soon after, a deal – the Black Sea Grain Initiative – was inked between Ukraine and Russia, brokered by Turkey and other regional players, to allow grain exports to continue. But, after Ukraine’s counteroffensive stepped up in recent months, Russia effectively killed the grain deal this past summer, and has been informally “blockading” Ukraine from conducting normal exports.
Since mid-summer, Ukraine had been forced to limit exports to the strategic Danube River and utilize regional ports, which limited export capacity. This method has recently fell into the fighting with some attacks on smaller vessels, per the New York Times.
At this time, Russia has yet to interfere in the new shipping route.
There has been no Russian attacks or attempted attacks aimed at disrupting the new route, likely due to Romania and Turkey’s NATO status. Time will tell whether that truce continues.