In what was a momentous move the first vessel to leave a Ukrainian Black Sea port since the end of the Grain Deal in July has arrived safely at the port of Ambarli, near Istanbul, Turkey.
The Bernhard Schulte-owned Joseph Schulte sailed from Odessa on 16 August, picking up bunker fuel before setting sail on what Kyiv now calls its Humanitarian Corridor. It was unclear whether the Russian military would try and prevent the vessel from leaving, with tensions heightened following the boarding of the Palau-flagged Sukru Okan by Russian troops, just three days earlier.
The 9,400 TEU Joseph Schulte, which had been operated by MSC at the time it entered the port in February 2022, arrived in the Turkish port at around 8:45 am local time according to AIS reports.
It is thought that the vessel has around 2,500 containers on board and that it will discharge these boxes at Ambarli and then be ready for inspection and maintenance after its long lay-up.
Russia refused to renew the grain deal in July claiming that it was not working for Russian exports. By ending that agreement, the Kremlin was expected to renew its blockade of Ukrainian commercial shipping. However, the successful passage of the Hong Kong-flagged Joseph Schulte will boost hopes that the humanitarian corridor can be maintained.
The success of the Joseph Schulte voyage could open the way for up to around 60 ships, mainly bulk carriers, to also make their way along the safe corridor along the coasts of Romania and Bulgaria to the Bosphorus.
Mary Ann Evans
Correspondent at Large