Grain ship from Ukraine towed to anchorage in Istanbul, traffic reopened

ISTANBUL (Reuters): A cargo vessel carrying more than 3,000 tons of corn from Ukraine was towed to anchorage in Istanbul on Friday after it briefly ran aground, a shipping agency said, the first such incident under a United Nations-brokered export deal.

Turkish state broadcaster TRT Haber said traffic in the Bosphorus strait had been reopened after it was halted due to the grounding of the 173-meter Lady Zehma due to a rudder failure around 1800 GMT.

The Tribeca shipping agency said the towage and salvage operation of Lady Zehma started at 2110 GMT and it dropped anchor at the southern Bosphorus anchorage area at 2330 GMT.

No one was hurt in the incident, the Istanbul governor’s office said. During the grounding, the ship’s bow had been about 150 meters from shore in the busy Bebek neighborhood, according to a witness and Refinitiv Eikon data.

The shipping data showed the vessel was at anchor in the Marmara Sea, just off the coast of Istanbul, on Friday morning.

Ukraine’s grain exports slumped after Russia invaded the country on Feb. 24 and blockaded its Black Sea ports, driving up global food prices and prompting fears of shortages in Africa and the Middle East.

Three ports were unblocked under the deal signed on July 22 by Moscow and Kyiv, and brokered by the UN and Ankara.

The Istanbul-based Joint Coordination Center (JCC) — which oversees the agreement and includes UN, Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish officials — said the ship “got stranded during her passage from the strait” and an emergency boarding operation had been conducted by Turkish authorities.

Earlier this week the JCC said the Lady Zehma was cleared to depart Ukraine’s Chornomorsk port for Ravenna, Italy, with 3,000 tons of corn. Turkey’s Tribeca shipping firm said it contained 30,274 tons of corn.

As of Wednesday, some 1.55 million tons of grain and other foodstuffs had been exported from Ukraine under the deal, while 139 inbound and outbound voyages had been enabled, the JCC said.

Such incidents are rare on the picturesque Bosphorus, which divides Turkey’s largest city and connects the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea and beyond to the Mediterannean.