Resilient Africa and Aroyat, two cargo ships flying the flag of Palau, an Oceanic Island nation, arrived at the Chornomorsk port via a newly established Black Sea route, carrying 20,000 tonnes of wheat for global markets.

The event marks a shift in the Ukraine grain export strategy.

It marks the first time civilian ships have reached a Ukrainian port using this route since the collapse of a bilateral agreement with Russia.

The Black Sea corridor, which was once primarily utilised by ships departing from Ukraine, is revitalised for imports. The cargo ships will transport the wheat to Egypt and Israel, according to Ukraine’s agricultural ministry. The crew of the cargo ships include individuals from Ukraine, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Egypt.

The establishment of this maritime corridor along the western coast of the Black Sea was a unilateral decision by Kyiv after Russia withdrew from a UN-backed agreement that had previously facilitated grain exports from Ukrainian ports. Moscow cited concerns that certain aspects of the agreement, particularly those related to the export of Russian food and fertilisers, were not being upheld. It also pointed to Western sanctions impeding its own agricultural exports.

Russia also issued ominous warnings, indicating that civilian ships navigating to Ukraine could potentially be treated as military targets. Just days ago, the United Kingdom accused Russia of launching multiple cruise missiles at a vessel while it was docked in the Ukrainian port of Odesa.

Ukraine’s agricultural sector plays a pivotal role on the global stage, supplying crops such as sunflower oil, barley, maize, and wheat to markets around the world.

In February 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine, its navy blockaded the country’s Black Sea ports, effectively imprisoning approximately 20 million tonnes of grain intended for export. This sent shockwaves through global food markets, driving up prices and triggering fears of shortages in Middle Eastern and African nations heavily reliant on Ukrainian food imports. The impacted countries include Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, and Ethiopia.