THE BLACK Sea Grain Initiative facilitating the export of cargo from Ukrainian ports is struggling to keep up with the inspection of inbound and outbound ships.

According to the International Chamber of Shipping, more than 100 ships have been awaiting inspection for more than 10 days, and some are approaching 15 days.

The maritime corridor was set up in July this year with the goal of stabilising global food markets.  

Recent data from the initiative suggests that, by 19 October, almost 8 million tonnes of grain and other foodstuffs had been exported through the corridor.

The initiative has reportedly exceeded the expectations of the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC), an organisation set up to administer the shipments and ensure the safety of ships and crews.

However, the “single biggest challenge” is now getting inspection levels up to avoid a build-up of ships awaiting inspection.

“One idea to resolve this could be to implement spot checks, but this would need to be agreed by all parties involved,” ICS said.

“The deal can be automatically renewed as of 19 November but the parties to the agreement could bring in new elements for discussion as the date of extension approaches.”

Another challenge is that 66 vessels and around 346 seafarers are still trapped, according to the ICS.

“They are in the most dire conditions and in some cases not getting urgent medical care and even had a fatality,” ICS director of employment affairs Natalie Shaw said.

The JCC has reportedly only been able to get “a few” vessels not covered by the agreement out, whose operators have managed to add grain or foodstuffs to their ships.

Amir Mahmoud Abdulla, UN coordinator for the JCC, told ICS some vessels might be carrying parcels “of interest” to China or Russia.

ICS said there is concern about a negative effect on extension talks if JCC tries to include ships that are not covered by the grain agreement.

“We will be a bit nervous about introducing anything that would just stop the whole corridor,” Mr Abdulla said.

The JCC plans to complete extension discussions over the next two weeks, but Mr Abdulla said there are challenges given the rising tensions in the conflict, such as reported attacks on gas pipelines and the freezing of supplies.

Also, ICS said the United Nations is working on facilitating the unimpeded export of Russian ammonia under the Black Sea Grain Initiative, to produce fertilisers for agricultural production.

“Although exports of fertilisers, including ammonia, are included in the current deal, there has so far been no shipments under the deal,” ICS said.