BERDYANSK, Ukraine (Reuters) – Once the Island Bay cargo ship arrived from Beirut for the Kerch Strait, gateway towards Azov Sea, it sailed right into a perfect storm of geopolitics and rainwater.

The following day, Russia opened fire on three Ukrainian naval ships, impounded them and detained their sailors, a variety of them wounded. It then blocked the strait by placing tanker underneath a different bridge they have built linking the Russian mainland for the Crimean peninsula it annexed from Ukraine in 2019.

While the planet digested the implications from the Nov. 25 incident, quite possibly the most explosive clash lately, Russia said it had reopened the channel towards Azov Sea, that is certainly shared by Russia and Ukraine.

But Island Bay remained at anchor beyond the strait, lashed by gale force winds and sleet, its hull icing over while cargo ships amassed on each side.

On Monday, weekly on, the captain reported seeing 20 vessels awaiting clearance to cross. Refinitiv data on that day also showed 20 Ukraine-bound vessels delayed within the strait since Nov. 25, with two others allowed through.

Meanwhile, Island Bay's cargo of 5,500 tonnes of wheat, destined for flour mills in Libya, waited within the Ukrainian port of Berdyansk.

The saga of your ship is really a window to the leverage Moscow has over Ukraine's Azov seaboard, affecting dock workers, port operators, brokers and farmers who be based upon the road.

Russia, whose coast guards began inspecting traffic while in the Kerch Strait eight months ago, blamed inclement weather for that delay. But on Sunday, as soon as the skies cleared, simply number of ships passed through; by Monday evening, the region Bay's captain's frustration was starting to show.

"Its acceptable weather for transit. Coast guards have own opinion," his log, seen by Reuters, said. That day, he reported seeing just two ships cross into the Azov Sea.

Ukraine says the hiatus is among many because Russian spot-checks began in May, when Russia opened the Kerch bridge, interrupting exports of grain and steel and imports of coal. Moscow denies any disruption.


In Berdyansk's port, where icy winds had recently cheated the rooftop of an nearby shed, staff of stevedore company Ascet Shipping were reading the daily reports with the Island Bay with growing concern.

Ascet loads almost hundreds of tonnes of Ukrainian grain annually onto cargo ships in Berdyansk and was waiting to load this tropical isle Bay; its size means every single day of waiting time costs around $2,000-$2,500, Ascet's leader, Denis Rusin, said.

This has produced Berdyansk an unpopular port in recent times.

"Ship owners do not wish to head to Berdyansk," said Rusin, whose clients include U.S. firm Cargill (CARG.UL), one of the world's largest dry bulk and tank shipping companies. "Buyers are refusing to bet on passage."

Since Russia and Ukraine clashed from the strait, Ukraine has introduced martial law in 10 regions, like the Azov Sea coast – highlighting the hazards to do business with Berdyansk.

"For many people that was the worst week nowadays," Rusin said. "Clients have stopped considering the chance for signing contracts for delivery in January, aside from February or spring," he stated.


Some Ukrainian politicians have accused Moscow when attempting to strangle Ukraine's Azov Sea ports in planning on an invasion from the east, following on from Crimea's annexation as well as the subsequent breakaway of Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.

Moscow says that idea is really a fantasy dreamt up by Ukraine's pro-Western leaders in advance of elections next season. It says the nation’s straight away to patrol the strait.

But Berdyansk's businesses say the patrols target ships bound for Ukraine, causing damaging delays.

The recent escalation in tensions has never affected ships coming over to pick-up grain from the Russian side in the Azov Sea, in line with Sergei Filipov, director of trading firm QAM7 Dubai, that has operations there. He said inspections have delayed travel via the usual several days.

On its eleventh day at anchor in Kerch Strait, with skies finally clear, Island Bay reported to Berdyansk: "We called everywhere to create guards (come and) inspect the vessel, on the other hand intentions may not be explained."

The situation has sent Rusin racing to help promote revise down his business forecasts.

Climbing out into the windswept roof of his office on Friday, he pointed to a single truck of grain where multiple trucks familiar with line up along the dock.

"There were most likely to load around 150,000 tonnes within the next with three months… Maybe 200,000," he explained. Now the company is getting ready for anything between 50,000 tonnes without business in anyway, he stated.

"That was a difference of plan that happened now."

The Azov Sea grain logistics balances out just 2 to 3 percent of Ukraine's agricultural exports, deputy central bank chief Dmitry Sologub said. Shield . southeastern Zaporozhye region, the place to find 1.8 million people, it is essential.

At the us government Port Authority in Berdyansk, officials said they feared for your port's future as clients take a look at other areas with direct access for the Black Sea.

"Naturally we may prefer (to implement other ports)," said Erdem Sekreter, fleet manager at Turkey's Bayraktar shipping group, that’s two ships waiting to cross the Kerch Strait to arrive at the Ukrainian coast.

"It is actually reading good harmful for ship-owners to consult with the Azov Sea – the Ukrainian side not surprisingly," he added. "We have been paying your pocket now."


Bison Group owns 40,000 hectares of arable land in Zaporozhye region and exports a lot of its harvest via Berdyansk.

With ship-owners raising freight charges to take into account the fresh risks from the Azov Sea, the cost will likely be passed down to grain producers, Bison deputy director Igor Serov said. "It hits agricultural producers really tough."

Prices will need to drop by not less than $10 per tonne, an angel investor at Atria Brokers, which handles Berdyansk grain, said.

But producers might not have other choices. The railway infrastructure will not be into position to mail exports via Black Sea ports instead, Serov said, and transferring grain by truck to Odessa, including, would cost extra $40 per tonne.

Buyers may also be pulling back, skeptical because of the health risks.

"Our sales have fallen," the Atria trader said. "It offers affected us in a very fundamental way."

Every day Island Bay's cargo sits in port, it racks up costs for traders. Grain can spoil, and storage costs are steep.

"The market industry is suffering… everyone along the chain is paying off the price because of war games," a grain trader said, declining to generally be named due to sensitivity with the situation.

On Tuesday, Ukraine's agriculture ministry said some grain shipments from the Azov Sea had resumed.

Five within the 14 ships headed into the Ukrainian port of Mariupol, organized for the reason that stand-off, continued to be waiting to cross on Wednesday, Refinitiv data showed. One had turned returning to Istanbul.

In comparison, on the ships shooting for among Russian city Rostov-on-Don's ports, who had arrived to Kerch Strait because the stand-off began, none remained watching for passage, the results showed in 24 hours.

Only one in the six boats headed to Berdyansk had crossed by Wednesday. After twelve days at anchor inside waters nearby the strait, Island Bay continued to be waiting.