Ship sail

Crew of Ukrainian grain ship delighted to set sail amid landmine concerns

Aug 1 (Reuters) – The news that his ship would be allowed to leave the Ukrainian port of Odessa carrying grain was the “best feeling” of the year, a cheerful crew member said on Monday, adding that he worried about mines.

The Razoni, flying the flag of Sierra Leone, left Odessa for Lebanon on Monday with 27,000 tonnes of grain. Read more

“It was a great feeling,” said junior engineer Abdullah Jendi, from Syria. “Everyone on board was very happy. I can say it was the best feeling we had in 2022.”

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The ship will cross the Bosphorus Strait on Tuesday.

“To be honest, I’m scared of the fact that there are naval mines,” Jendi said. “That’s the only thing I’m afraid of on this trip, as for other things, we’re used to it as sailors.”

The sailing was made possible after Turkey and the United Nations brokered a grain and fertilizer export deal between Russia and Ukraine last month – a rare diplomatic breakthrough in a conflict that continues unresolved in sight.

It was the first departure since the Russian invasion of Ukraine five months ago blocked shipping across the Black Sea.

Russia and Ukraine account for almost a third of world wheat exports.

Moscow has denied responsibility for the food crisis, accusing Western sanctions of slowing exports and Ukraine of mining the approaches to its ports. The Kremlin called Razoni’s departure “very positive news”.

Jendi said alarms would go off in Odessa every day and the crew feared they would never be able to return home.

“We didn’t know when we would be released, so we lived every day hoping to be released,” he said.

The Sierra Leone-flagged ship Razoni leaves Odessa seaport after restarting grain export, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, August 1, 2022. REUTERS/Serhii Smolientsev

INDESCRIBABLE EMOTION

“As for other dangers, at first there was a lack of food and water to get to the ship, as there was a lockdown when the war started. When the restrictions were eased, we were able to go to town and buy what we need and clear our minds of stress.”

He said the plan was to reach Istanbul on Tuesday and refuel.

“We will also have to carry out some simple routine repairs that we do on any ship after it has docked. We will then go to another Turkish port, which will be assigned by the Turkish port authorities, and then we will proceed to the port of Tripoli , where the ship will unload.”

He said Lebanon, which is suffering from its worst political and economic crisis in decades, was chosen “because of the circumstances it faces”.

He said the trip should take about a week.

“The feeling is indescribable. It’s so important to live in safety, because I spent a while feeling the feeling of danger, the great fear of knowing that at any moment something could happen to us because of the strikes aerial.

“We couldn’t even turn on the lights at night. We couldn’t be outside at night for our safety.” he said. “The port would be completely dark for security reasons.”

He said of being able to leave: “It’s a great feeling, I haven’t seen my family for over a year because of my work at sea.”

Jendi said: “Both warring parties will lose, even the winner of the war will have lost due to human and material losses.

“In my opinion, the Ukrainian people do not deserve this because they are good and peaceful people.”

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Reporting by George Sargent, Anna Lubowicka and Bushra Shakhshir; Written by Nick Macfie; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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