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First Ukraine grain shipment remains stranded in Istanbul port

The Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni did not leave Istanbul as a Lebanese buyer refused to purchase the corn load
The Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni leaves the port of Odesa, Ukraine, with a cargo of grain on 1 August 2022 (Screen grab, Ukraine Ministry of Infrastructure video/Reuters)

The first grain shipment to leave Ukraine since the Russian invasion remains stranded in Istanbul after a Lebanese buyer refused to purchase the cargo, according to a UN body.

The Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni is loaded with about 26,000 tonnes of corn. It departed Ukraine this week and sailed through a safe corridor in the Black Sea set up by the Joint Command Centre (JCC), a UN body aiming to monitor the shipments of grain.

JCC, formed in July in Istanbul with personnel from the United Nations, Russia, Ukraine, and Turkey, said on Wednesday that Razoni was authorised to reach its final destination in the Lebanese port of Tripoli. JCC inspectors said they had checked if "the vessel had any unauthorised crew or cargo".

However, the Razoni has gone no further than Istanbul after a Lebanese buyer refused to purchase its cargo of corn.

Middle East Eye reported that the buyer had raised concerns over the grain quality due to the five-month delay in its shipment and was trying to renegotiate the price.

The Razoni was set to arrive in Lebanon on Sunday, but it is still currently anchored off Turkey’s southern coast.

Lebanese buyer rejects first batch of Ukrainian grain
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The JCC said it was "not involved in conducting food inspection, this is not part of the agreement. Food is typically inspected for quality by the importing jurisdiction".

It added that the Razoni is still waiting for instructions for a new destination and that the cargo is being resold.

"This is a common commercial practice, i.e. the cargo being resold while en route, and not something the JCC controls or is involved in," it added in a statement.

As the first shipment of grain to leave the embattled port of Odesa on the southern coast of Ukraine, this voyage by the Razoni was seen as a test run for the resumption of foodstuff shipments through the Black Sea to the outside world.

At least 12 ships have now left the Ukrainian ports of Odesa, Pivdennyi, and Chornomorsk, loaded with more than 370,000 tonnes of food commodities, including corn, sunflower meal, and oil.

Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat exports, and the war in Ukraine has led to a worldwide food and energy crisis.

The effects of these shortages have been particularly devastating in the Middle East.