ISTANBUL (AP) — The first grain ship to depart Ukraine under a wartime deal entered the Bosporus Strait on the way to Lebanon after its cargo was checked and approved Wednesday, Turkish and Ukrainian authorities said.
An inspection team spent about 90 minutes conducting checks aboard the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni, which was carrying Ukrainian corn and anchored off Istanbul, Turkey’s defense ministry said.
The team included officials from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations, the parties to the agreement struck last month to create safe shipping corridors for exporting Ukraine’s agricultural products as Russia’s invasion of its neighbour continues.
The Razoni, which the United Nations says is carrying 26,527 tons of corn, set sail Monday from Odesa on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast. From Istanbul, it is on a voyage to cross the Bosporus Strait, a 19-mile scenic waterway connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, before sailing on to Lebanon, its final destination.
The inspectors, some wearing white helmets, headed out to the Razoni in two boats, escorted by the Turkish coast guard. Turkish media said there were about 20 inspectors.
The checks are intended to ensure that outbound cargo vessels are bearing only grain, fertilizer or related food items and not any other commodities, and that inbound ships are not carrying weapons.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Infrastructure confirmed the Razoni had passed the inspection. It said 17 other vessels “are loaded and are awaiting permission to leave” Ukrainian ports.
An estimated 20 million tons of grain have been stuck in Ukraine since the start of the 6-month-old war. The UN-brokered agreement provided for the establishment of safe corridors through the mined waters outside Ukraine’s ports.