The first World Food Programme shipment of grain from Ukraine is preparing to leave the port of Pivdennyi, in Yuzhny.

The 23,700-dwt handysize bulk carrier Brave Commander (built 1995), controlled by Lebanon-based Mody Shipping, is in the final stages of loading a 23,000-tonne cargo of wheat grain.

The cargo will unload in Djibouti before it is transhipped to Ethiopia.

The ship could sail as early as Tuesday this week, but the WFP told TradeWinds reports it had already departed are premature.

The vessel was chartered by the United Nations for the WFP initiative which followed an agreement between Russia and Ukraine — brokered by Turkey and the United Nations — on allowing humanitarian food exports.

It represents the first shipment of what is expected to be upwards of 2m tonnes per month of grain and other food exports from Ukraine allowed under the agreement.

So far 16 vessels have sailed from the Ukraine ports of Yuzhny, Odesa and Chornomorsk. These ships have been caught in the conflict since February and have left Ukraine ports to create space for the incoming WFP vessels to load.

There are three other vessels in Ukraine committed to carrying cargoes for the WFP. These include the 19,100-dwt Petrel S (built 2006), the 13,500-dwt Fulmar S (built 2007) and 30,500-dwt Osprey S (built 2007).

The UN recently said it had received dozens of applications from shipowners to take WFP cargoes.

War risk underwriters in London also said they are prepared to insure the ships and are quoting between 1.5% and 2% of hull value.

Marianne Ward, deputy country director at the WFP, said: “This ship will be taking 23,000 metric tons of wheat to the hungry people of Ethiopia via the port of Djibouti. This is the beginning, we hope, of more normal operations.

“The food of Ukraine fed 400m people across the world last year. WFP purchased 880,000 metric tonnes. And we move that food to Somalia Yemen Ethiopia and Sudan. Big message for us is that the world needs the food of Ukraine and the WFP needs the food of Ukraine.”