Russia is turning to smaller ports and ship-to-ship transfers to help deal with its large grain harvests.
The usual grain-shipping channels, which involve loading ships at Black Sea ports, especially Novorossiysk, are being used to capacity, so traders are using small ships on the Sea of Azov to keep exports flowing.
The grain is loaded onto small vessels, which navigate the shallow Azov sea and meet up with larger vessels on the Black Sea, north of traditional deep-water ports. There, the grain is transferred ship-to-ship using cranes carried by the vessels.
“This has become a leading channel of exports,” Dmitry Rylko, director general at the Institute for Agriculture Market Studies, or IKAR, told Bloomberg.
“Cargoes out of the Sea of Azov in recent years, especially during the current season, have brought about colossal volumes of ship-to-ship transfers.” Grain transfers from ship to ship totalled 8.8 million tonnes of exports last year.
In 2017, Russia harvested 134 million tonnes of all grains, which included 85.5 million tonnes of wheat, 20.5 million tonnes of barley and 12 million tonnes of corn.