Ukraine's navy said on Wednesday that 12 more cargo vessels were ready to enter a fledgling Black Sea shipping corridor on their way to Ukrainian ports, APA reports citing Reuters.
Russia, which has a much more powerful and bigger naval fleet in the Black Sea, pulled out of a deal in July that had allowed wartime Ukraine to safely ship food products out through what is traditionally its main export corridor.
Ukraine responded by setting up a temporary "humanitarian corridor" for cargo vessels, and several ships have departed from Ukraine's Black Sea ports since.
"In total to enter the new corridor we have 12, and 10 to leave. That is as of now," Navy spokesperson Dmytro Pletenchuk told an online media briefing on Wednesday.
Those figures appeared to indicate an increase in the amount of shipping traffic set to use the corridor, although Pletenchuk did not say when the vessels were expected to sail.
He said Ukraine's defence forces were doing everything to ensure the safety of civilian ships in their territorial waters and that they were proceeding into the waters of Romania, Bulgaria and Türkiye, all of which are NATO member countries.
At least seven new ships entered Ukrainian waters in the pas several days, and they were due to ship abroad at least 127,000 tons of Ukrainian-origin grain, local officials and lawmakers said.
However, Ukrainian grain exports have declined by 24% so far in the 2023/24 July-June season as the country's major export routes were blocked.
The agriculture ministry's data showed on Wednesday the grain exports have fallen to 6.82 million metric tons, from 8.99 million tons in the same period of 2022/23.
The data showed 153,000 tons of grain were exported in the first three days of October 2023, compared with 297,000 tons a year ago.