The Black Sea Grain Corridor
A close look
The Russia-Ukraine war which has been going on since February 2022 has affected global supply chain as Ukraine, one of the world's most important grain exporters, had to stop grain exports due to the war. Consequentially basic food prices have been sky rocketed due to decrease in grain supply in Ukraine.
For this reason, an initiative was taken by the United Nations Secretary-General's Office and Turkish Republic to bring Russia and Ukraine, the parties to the war, together on the basis of a neutral agreement. As a result of this consensus, the "Initiative on the Safe Transport of Grain and Foodstuffs through Ukrainian Ports", also known as the "Grain Corridor Agreement", was signed in Istanbul on 22 July 2022 between the United Nations, Ukraine, Russia and Turkiye and has been in force since then. (Annex 1)
The initiative is based on the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974, as amended, (SOLAS), Regulations XI-2/11 and the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code), Part B, paragraph 4.26.
The primary objective of the Grain Corridor is to ensure the safe export of grain and related food stuffs (as well as fertiliser and ammonia) from the Ukrainian ports of Chornomorsk, Yuzhny and Odessa. According to the initiative, the way to ensure security is to establish a safe route for vessels to and from Ukraine, to monitor vessels along the way, and to inspect cargo and personnel at the Bosphorus.
The command center for the grain corridor agreement is the Joint Coordination Centre ("JCC"), opened in Istanbul on 27 July 2022.
As the total monthly loading capacity of the mentioned Ukrainian ports is 5 million tons, the aim of the JCC is to utilize this capacity as much as possible. Therefore, the higher the grain transport, the more successful the initiative will be. From 1 August 2022, the date of departure of the first vessel, until the date of this newsletter, more than 200 vessels have been inspected. Considering that there is still time to complete the 120th day of the initiative, this number will increase even more.
The JCC's mission in general is,
- To bring the cargoes within the scope of the initiative from Chornomorsk, Yuzhne and Odesa ports of Ukraine, to ensure the necessary coordination for the safest and fastest passage from these ports to Turkey and to check whether the vessel is empty during its voyage to Ukraine and whether it carries the cargoes within the scope of the initiative on its return (daily and ordinary inspections within the scope of port state control are outside the JCC's scope of duty).
- At the same time, to act as an airport control tower, so to speak, to prevent the accumulation in Ukrainian ports, thus to shorten the waiting time of the vessels there and ensure that the loading operations are conducted without wasting time.
For this reason, being in constant contact with Ukrainian ports, following the loading operations there and organizing the departure of vessels from Turkey according to the loading capacity of the mentioned ports is within the job description of the JCC.
As of 11.10.2022 more than 300 vessels used the corridor for grain shipments. (List of Ships)
The initiative is going to end on 19.11.2022, while some sources say that an extention may not be foreseeable under the prevailing circumstances, we think that the need is definitely there and parties will try to come to some form of an agreement to keep the initiative alive, maybe with the rumoured opening of a new corridor for fertilizer shipments from Russian Port. Time will show us …. !
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Who does the inspection team consist of?
The JCC currently has an average of 4-5 teams that can go to the inspection at the same time. The number of teams can increase according to the density. In these inspection teams, there are at least two members each from Turkiye, Russia, Ukraine and the United Nations.
Where is the inspection area ?
The vessels to be inspected are moored at Istanbul Port Ahirkapi Anchorage Area. After the declaration of readiness is given, following the approval of the JCC, the vessel is boarded at Istanbul Port Ahirkapi Anchorage Area A in line with the density in the port and the capacity of the inspection teams. Anchorage Area A is the area reserved only for the inspection of vessels. As stated above, vessels that are bunkering and provisioning before or after the inspection according to their route, are anchored at Istanbul Ahirkapi Anchorage Area B for these operations and after these operations are completed, they are taken to Area A for inspection.
What is the scope of the inspection?
It is possible to divide the JCC inspection into two:
a) Inspection of ballast (empty) vessels travelling to Ukraine. (Northbound sailing)
b) Inspection of loaded vessels coming from Ukraine. (Southbound sailing)
First of all, the vessels that will make a northbound sailing are expected to finalize all kinds of provisions and fuel supply at Istanbul Ahirkapi B Anchorage Area and the JCC inspection is carried out after the vessel arrives at Istanbul Ahirkapi A Anchorage Area. After the JCC inspection, no contact, entry or exit from the vessel or supply is permitted. In other words, it is possible to say that the JCC seals the vessel. After the JCC inspection, the vessel only waits for the queue to continue her voyage.
In respect of the vessels navigating to the south, no one can enter the vessel and bunker or other food/water cannot be supplied before the JCC inspection. Therefore, in parallel with the above example, the JCC must first unseal the vessel and make it possible to enter and exit the vessel
Although there is no written source on how the inspection is conducted, it is understood from the practice that the inside of the holds and ballast tanks are inspected and also the documentation regarding the cargo and the vessel is checked. If it is found that more cargo than the declared grain cargo is being transported, the amount of cargo is updated by the JCC and the relevant vessel is allowed to pass. If the authorities are in doubt about the quantity and nature of the cargo, the JCC may decide to measure the draught. Although it has not been encountered in practice for the time being, in our opinion, confiscation of the cargo will be carried out if it is revealed during the inspections that the vessel is carrying a cargo that is not authorized by the parties.
How long do vessels wait for inspection?
There is no time-bound prioritization of vessels, especially for the voyages to Ukrainian ports. In other words, there is no order of priority such as the first vessel arriving at the inspection place to be inspected first. In order for a vessel to be included in the inspection list, it must be approved by all the JCC members and there may be cases where the parties refrain from giving approval for various reasons. Also, the number and order of inspections are also shaped according to the availability of Ukrainian Ports. For these reasons, it is not possible to give any time guarantee regarding the inspection or sail of the vessel. The daily list of vessels to be inspected is finalized only in the evening of the day before each inspection.
However, in order for the inspection to be carried out, the conditions determined by the JCC must first be fulfilled, that is, the vessels must be ready for inspection.
Although the JCC's aim is to inspect 16 vessels per day, usually 10-12 vessels can be inspected on average per day. The vessels that are not inspected in time are inspected on the next day.
When is a ship considered ready for inspection?
In order to initiate the JCC inspection, the vessel must tender the attached (Annex 2) declaration of readiness through the agency. As it can be seen from this notice, the master declares in the Declaration that he has complied with the requirements of MARSEC Level 3 as defined by the Government of Ukraine during the voyage, that he will open the ballast tanks and hatches to the inspection teams in case of any inspection, and that he has prepared the necessary documents in Annex A (Annex 3). As it is known, MARSEC Level 3 is an ISPS Code determined when a possible threat is now visible and vulnerable. Entering the vessel with special permission, continuous control and only privately authorized personnel can enter designated private areas are among the implications applied at this security level.
Is fumigation an obstacle to inspection?
In many cases, the holds of the vessels transiting South are fumigated. This is because the holds of the vessels carrying grain and related foodstuffs, whose discharge port is 4-5 days away, should be fumigated. In this case, as it will be seen in Article 2 of the declaration of readiness, in order for the vessel to be considered ready for inspection, the holds must be ventilated for a certain period of time to the extent required by the nature of the fumigation in the holds. Namely, the date of completion of the spraying, the date of completion of the ventilation and even the residual fumigant level on the cargo is measured with hydrogen phosphide detector tube or other appropriate measuring equipment and the residual fumigant level in the holds is stated in the notice of readiness and its annexes. In addition, fumigation certificates stating the time required for the fumigation to take effect are also submitted to the JCC.
What are the common reasons for failing an inspection?
In general, it is highly probable that the vessels will fail to pass the inspection in cases such as expiry dates of fumigation phosphine tests, lack of evidence of ventilation after fumigating, lack of phosphide test kit tubes, failure to submit the preparation notice, mismatch between the master crew list and the crew list provided by the agency, ballast tanks not being open or failure to respond to the JCC's letter of Non-Compliance. For this reason, it is essential to pay attention to these issues and to give the declaration of readiness after the completion of the whole procedure.
Is it compulsory to terminate transit status of the vessel or to take a pilot onboard for the Bosphorus Passage?
The agencies of the vessels arriving at Ahirkapi Anchorage Area for inspection are required to conduct entry and exit transactions to the port and pay the relevant dues and duties on behalf of the vessel. Thus, the transit passage status of the vessels coming for inspection is terminated. In addition, it is obligatory for the vessels coming for inspection to receive pilotage service.
Is there any fee for the inspection?
The JCC inspection is not subject to any fee. However there are the usual expenses for pilotage and sanitary issues.
When can the vessels that have passed the inspection continue their voyages?
As a rule, the vessel whose inspection is completed is planned to depart within 6 hours. The vessel departs with the instructions of the Directorate General of Coastal Safety and VTS. Vessels that will go to Ukrainian ports after passing the inspection continue to sail in convoy as can be seen in the attachment (Annex 4).
Initiative on the Safe Transportation of
Grain and Foodstuffs from Ukrainian Ports
1. The Parties to this Initiative are the Republic of Türkiye, the Russian Federation and Ukraine as proposed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
2. This Initiative is based on agreements of parties of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974, as amended, (SOLAS), Regulations XI-2/11 and the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code), Part B, paragraph 4.26;
3. The purpose of this Initiative is to facilitate the safe navigation for the export of grain and related foodstuffs and fertilizers, including ammonia from the Ports of Odesa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny (“the Ukrainian ports”).
4. The Parties recognize the role of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in securing the discussions for this initiative and request his further assistance in its implementation, in the furtherance of the humanitarian mission of the United Nations and subject to its authorities and mandates.
5. To achieve the purposes of this Initiative, and to provide for the safe navigation of vessels carrying grain and foodstuffs, the Parties agree as follows:
Primary Aspects of the Initiative
A. This Initiative assumes that all Parties will provide maximum assurances regarding a safe and secure environment for all vessels engaged in this Initiative. Prior to operations commencing, a coordination structure will be established. A Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) shall be set up in Istanbul under the auspices of the United Nations and includes representatives of the Parties and the United Nations. The JCC shall conduct general oversight and coordination of this Initiative. Each Party and the United Nations will be represented in the JCC by one senior official and an agreed upon, required number of personnel.
B. Inspection teams will be set up in Türkiye. The inspection teams in Türkiye will consist of representatives from all Parties and the UN. Vessels will transit to and enter the Ukrainian ports in line with the JCC-approved schedule upon the vessels’ inspection by an Inspection Team. The primary responsibility of the Inspection Teams will be to check for the absence of unauthorised cargoes and personnel on board vessels inbound to or outbound from the Ukrainian ports.
C. All activities in Ukrainian territorial waters will be under authority and responsibility of Ukraine.
The Parties will not undertake any attacks against merchant vessels and other civilian vessels and port facilities engaged in this Initiative.
Should demining be required, a minesweeper of another country, agreed by all Parties, shall sweep the approaches to the Ukrainian ports, as necessary.
D. Merchant vessels will be prior registered in the JCC, verifying their details and confirming their loading port, having liaised closely with port authorities. Vessels will be technically monitored for the duration of their passage. Vessels will proceed through the maritime humanitarian corridor, agreed by all Parties. The JCC will develop and disseminate a detailed operational and communications plan, including identification of safe harbours and medical relief options.
E. To prevent any provocations and incidents, the movement of vessels transiting the maritime humanitarian corridor will be monitored by the Parties remotely. No military ships, aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) may approach the maritime humanitarian corridor closer than a distance agreed by the JCC, without the authorization of the JCC, and after consultation with all Parties.
F. Should any suspicious activities, or non-compliance with the rules of this operation or emergencies occur on a vessel transiting the maritime humanitarian corridor, depending on its location, upon the request of a Party to the JCC and under international maritime law, the Parties will provide the required assistance to the crew or conduct an inspection against the security guarantees.
G. All merchant vessels taking part in this Initiative shall be subject to inspection conducted by an Inspection Team in the harbours determined by Türkiye at the entry/exit to/from the Turkish strait.
H. This initiative will remain in effect for 120 days from the date of signature by all Parties and can be extended automatically for the same period, unless one of the Parties notifies the other of the intent to terminate the initiative, or to modify it.
I. Nothing in this Initiative will be deemed as a waiver, express or implied, of the privileges and immunities of the United Nations, and the Parties will ensure that the Initiative does not entail any liabilities for the United Nations.
Done in Istanbul on the 22nd day of July, 2022
DECLARATION OF READINESS FOR VESSEL INSPECTION
I, The Master of [vessel name] declare that:
1. All vessels:
a. I have implemented the requirements of MARSEC Level 3, as defined by the Government of Ukraine, from the Turkish Inspection Area to the Ukrainian ports, for inbound vessels, and visa-versa for outbound vessels;
b. I ensure that on arrival of the inspection team, the holds and hatches of the ballast tanks will be open and access for the inspection teams will be granted for immediate inspection;
c. I will provide all documents required at ANNEX A.
2. For vessels conducting fumigation:
a. I confirm the fumigation period, stated on the FUMIGATION CERTIFICATE has completed;
Date and time of completion of fumigation ___/___/____ ___:____:___
Date and time of completion of ventilation ___/___/____ ___:____:___
(a period of minimum 24 hours following the completion of the fumigation period);
b. I confirm the residual fumigant level has been tested in accordance with the manual and is below the MPC level of the fumigant. The level was tested using Phosphine gas detector tubes, or other appropriate measuring equipment, to measure the residual gasses from fumigation, and a photo or video recording is attached to evidence the test result;
c. I confirm that the equipment to conduct a second test, in the presence of the inspectors, will be provided onboard. The equipment will be in good condition, along with the instructions for the use of the equipment (a control test will be conducted by the inspectors);
d. Notwithstanding the requirements of Paragraph 1b, for vessels under fumigation, cargo holds are to be closed whilst the inspection team embarks.
I understand that in the case not fulfilling the provisions of this Declaration, or in the case of submission of inaccurate information, the inspection of the vessel will be cancelled and postponed for a week, or will be conducted earlier, if such an opportunity arises (taking into account the current queue for inspections).
JCC Document Inspection Checklist
- General Arrangements / Ships Plans
- Ship’s particulars
- Crew list on arrival
- Port clearance from last port
- Departure crew list from last port
- Stores list on arrival
- Stores list on departure from last port
- Bunker delivery report (last)
- List of last 10 ports of call
- Inbound vessels - Passage Plan from last port of call to Istanbul
- Oil Record Book Part I – Copies of last page (to all parties-four copies)
- Page with records of last bunkering
- Page on departure from last port
- Logbook (copies to JCC pre-inspection)
- Last page
- Page on departure from last port
- Page with bunkering operations
- Voyage order
- Cargo plan
- Cargo manifest
- Certificate of Registry
- Document of Compliance
- International Ship Security Certificate
- Continuous Synopsis Record
- International Tonnage Certificate
- Load Line Certificate
- Minimum Manning Certificate
- Statement of Compliance Cargo in Bulk (MARPOL Annex III)
- Relevant to the carriage of grain in compliance with IMO resolution
- Compliance to fuel oil consumption reporting
- Compliance of inventory of hazardous materials
- Bills of Lading
- Passports/Seaman Books