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The priority given to large tonnage vessels exporting agricultural products from the ports of Odessa using the Ukraine grain corridor when passing through the Bosphorus Strait has been extended, APK-Inform reported the Ukraine Ministry of Agrarian Policy as saying.

The measure was introduced in a bid to increase the volumes of exports following reports of delays in inspections in the Bosphorus by the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC), the organisation which facilitates the implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI), the 20 January report said.

Since the beginning of this year, the average number of inspections was 2.5 vessels/day, compared to 3.5 vessels/day in December. As a result, a large queue of ships had formed in the Bosphorus and exports dropped in January, APK-Inform wrote.

As of 18 January, 121 vessels were waiting for inspection in the Bosphorus (28 carrying agricultural products and 93 going to ports for loading). With average waiting times of 2-5 weeks, cargo owners were also facing losses, the report said.

In a bid to improve the situation and plan work in ports, members of the JCC supported the extension of the arrangement for large tonnage vessels passing through the Bosphorus.

The extension applies to ships with a payload of not less than 15,000 tonnes for all types of food products, excluding oilseeds, with 6,000 tonnes payloads for oilseeds also having priority, according to the report.

The decision made it possible to maintain export volumes despite a reduction in the number of vessels that passed inspection and were allowed to load agricultural products.

“Regarding the coverage of war risk by insurance companies for sea transportation of grain, market operators noted that despite the refusal of policyholders of the IG Club to cover risks related to war, other policyholders continue to conclude contracts. In general, the situation does not threaten the operation of the grain corridor and food security,” the ministry was quoted as saying.

Exports under the BSGI reached 17.8M tonnes from August until mid-January according to United Nations (UN) data reported by World Grain on 19 January.

Grain and other food products had been exported to 42 countries, UN deputy spokesperson for the Secretary-General Farhan Haq said at a briefing on 18 January.

December exports reached 3.7M tonnes, up from 2.6M tonnes the previous month, and nearly 1.2M tonnes of food had been moved from Ukrainian Black Sea ports in the two weeks prior to the briefing, Haq was quoted as saying.

“However, unfavourable weather conditions both in Odessa ports as well as in Turkish inspection areas have curbed some movements recently,” Haq added.

China was the primary recipient of the exports, followed by Spain and Turkey, according to JCC data, with nearly 44% of the exported wheat shipped to low and lower-middle income countries and 64% to developing economies.