Work has begun at three of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports in preparation to resume grain exports, the Ukrainian navy confirmed on social media yesterday (Wednesday, July 27).

The work is taking place at three ports which were designated under a recent deal between Ukraine and Russia, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations (UN), to allow cereal exports to resume. In a Facebook post they said:

“In connection with the signing of the agreement on the unblocking (by Russia) of Ukrainian ports for the export of grain, work has been resumed in the ports of Odesa, Chornomorsk and Pivdeny.”

The navy also stated that “the departure and arrival of ships to sea ports will be carried out by forming a convoy that will accompany the lead ship”.

However, challenges remain in establishing this corridor, such as the sourcing of sufficient staff to sail the almost 80 ships stuck inside the port.

This is due to the recent evacuation of most crew members following a missile strike by Russia on the city of Odesa in the early hours of Saturday morning (July 23), shortly after the deal was reached on Friday (July 22).

Under the deal, Russia agreed not to attack the ports of Odesa, Chornomorsk and Pivdenyi while grain exports were in transit.

The agreement, which will allow for millions of tonnes of grain to be exported, was reached after approximately two months of negotiations and is set to last for 120 days. A move which the UN said could alleviate a food and economic crisis in the vulnerable parts of the world.

When the agreement was confirmed, Ukraine’s Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food Mykola Solskyi, outlined what an important step reaching the deal was. He said:

“It was crucially important. Due to the blockade of the ports, our farmers received less money than they ever did because of the logistics price.

“The agreement is concluded entirely on Ukrainian terms – the same way we liberated the Black Sea and the north of Ukraine with the military,” he concluded.