Four ships carrying Ukrainian foodstuffs sailed from Ukrainian Black Sea ports on Sunday as part of a deal to unblock the country's sea exports, Ukrainian and Turkish officials said.
The four bulk carriers were loaded with almost 170,000 tonnes of corn and other foodstuffs, Ukraine's sea ports authority said on Facebook.
The resumption of grain exports is being overseen by a Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) in Istanbul where Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN personnel are working.
The United Nations and Turkey brokered the deal last month after UN warnings of possible outbreaks of famine in parts of the world due to a halt in grain shipments from Ukraine that had squeezed supplies and sent prices soaring.
On Saturday, a foreign-flagged ship arrived in Ukraine for the first time since the war started in February to be loaded with grain, Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said.
"We are gradually moving on to larger volumes of work. We plan to ensure the ability of the ports to handle at least 100 vessels per month in the near future," he said on Facebook on Sunday.
He said Ukraine soon planned to involve Pivdennyi port in implementation of the grain export initiative and expected that as a result Ukraine will be able to ship up to at least 3 million tonnes of goods a month.
Before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Russia and Ukraine together accounted for nearly a third of global wheat exports. Russia calls its action in Ukraine a "special military operation".
The JCC said late on Saturday it had authorised the departure of a total of five new vessels through the Black Sea corridor: four vessels outbound from Chornomorsk and Odesa carrying 161,084 metric tonnes of foodstuffs, and one inbound.
The ships that have left Ukrainian ports included Glory, with a cargo of 66,000 tonnes of corn bound for Istanbul, and Riva Wind, loaded with 44,000 tonnes of corn, heading for Turkey's Iskenderun, the Turkish defence ministry said.
It said the other two vessels to have left Ukraine were Star Helena, with a cargo of 45,000 tonnes of meal heading to China, and Mustafa Necati, carrying 6,000 tonnes of sunflower oil and heading for Italy.
Procedures near finalisation
The JCC also said it was near finalisation of the shipping procedures to regularise operations to support implementation of the grain deal. The procedures were expected to be published early this week, it said.
The first four ships left Ukraine last week under the agreement.
The JCC said it has also authorized the movement, pending inspection, of Osprey S, inbound for Chornomorsk. That ship is currently at anchorage northwest of Istanbul and was to be inspected on Sunday.
On Saturday, the JCC completed the inspection of Navistar, which was cleared to sail, and its joint inspection teams were to continue inspections on Sunday morning of the remaining two vessels that departed Ukrainian ports on Friday.
The first ship to leave a Ukrainian port under the deal will not arrive in Lebanon on Sunday as planned, the Ukrainian embassy in Lebanon said. The Razoni left Odesa last Monday carrying 26,527 tonnes of corn.
The embassy told Reuters the ship was "having a delay" and "not arriving today," with no details on a new arrival date or the cause of the delay. Shipping data on MarineTraffic.com showed the Razoni off the Turkish coast on Sunday morning.