Three Cargo Vessels Breach Russian Blockade
Three cargo vessels breached the Russian blockade in the Black Sea and anchored at the Ukrainian port of Izmail in the Danube Delta on July 30th. This marks the first arrival of foreign ships after Russia's exit from the "grain deal." According to Forbes, these vessels are likely to load grain in Izmail and then proceed back to the Black Sea and onwards to foreign ports.
Forbes reported this.
The Israeli-flagged vessel, Ams1, and the Greek vessel, Sahin 2, sailed north of the Bosporus strait, while the Turkish-Georgian vessel, Yilmaz Kaptan, headed west of northern Turkey.
NATO tracked these ships with at least four military aircraft: the U.S. Navy P-8 patrol plane, an army Challenger with surface-scanning radar, the U.S. Air Force RQ-4 drone, and an E-3 early warning aircraft from NATO. These aircraft typically do not carry weapons, but NATO fighters, including Italian Eurofighter jets and Romanian F-16s, were nearby in Romania.
The three cargo vessels made no efforts to conceal their intentions, as they all had their radio transponders turned on, making their location and course visible to anyone with access to ship-tracking websites on the internet.
This successful breach of the blockade on Sunday may signal to international shippers that resuming operations with Ukrainian ports is relatively safe, as noted by Forbes.
Only 22 days after Moscow unilaterally cancelled the 11-month Black Sea Grain Initiative, which facilitated the export of 32 million tons of Ukrainian grain, the Russian Black Sea Fleet deployed the corvette "Sergey Kotov" in the southern part of the Black Sea, blocking the paths from the Bosporus strait to Odesa, a strategic port in Ukraine.
However, neither "Sergey Kotov" nor any other Russian vessel intervened, as the three civilian ships were heading to Izmail, not Odesa. This could indicate that Russian forces either do not want or are unable to forcibly stop and search neutral vessels heading to Ukraine through the Black Sea, as suggested by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) in the US.
While Russian missiles regularly strike Odesa, attacks on Danube ports occur less frequently, possibly due to their proximity to NATO territory. From Izmail to Romanian land, there is only a short distance. On July 24, a Russian drone struck a grain depot in Reni, another Ukrainian port on the Danube, narrowly missing Romania.
The question of whether cargo shippers will risk taking the longer route to Odesa, which is 100 miles north of the Danube Delta, remains open. Kyiv is reconfiguring its Danube ports as an alternative to Odesa during wartime. However, experts believe that the Danube ports lack the capacity to fully replace Odesa as a grain port.
As previously reported by The Gaze, the Kremlin announced its withdrawal from the so-called grain deal, which partially restored the export of Ukrainian grain to the global market previously blocked by Russian forces. This decision affects supplies to several African countries heavily dependent on Ukrainian agricultural products, leaving their populations on the brink of hunger and mass migration.