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Ukraine Appeals to Lebanon to Prevent Syrian Ship Carrying Allegedly 'Stolen' Corn from Docking
By Sea and Coast | 25/08/2023
Ukrainian Authorities Request Lebanon to Prevent Syrian State-Owned Ship from Docking with Allegedly Stolen Grain
Ukrainian officials have formally asked Lebanon to deny entry to a Syrian state-owned cargo ship, the Finikia, which is reportedly transporting 6,000 metric tons of corn believed to be stolen Ukrainian grain. The Ukrainian embassy communicated this request, and a diplomatic note confirming the matter was seen by Reuters.
The grain, identified as stolen, originated from the Black Sea port of Sevastopol. The embassy's note, addressed to Lebanon's ministries of transport, finance, economy, and customs directorate, highlighted that the corn had been unlawfully taken from storage facilities in regions including Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv, and Kherson. The embassy emphasized that the ship's presence and cargo were in violation of international law. The hope was expressed that Lebanon would prevent the cargo ship FINIKIA from entering Lebanese ports and thereby halt the sale of the alleged stolen Ukrainian grain.
Responses from Lebanon's transportation and finance ministers were not immediately available to Reuters' requests for comment. As for Syria's government and the Syrian General Authority for Maritime Transport, owner of the Finikia, they did not provide immediate responses to written inquiries. Lebanon's economy minister noted that while he had not received an official note, similar communications had been sent by the Ukrainian embassy in the past.
Although the ship had not yet docked at the Tripoli port according to MarineTraffic and a port source, the incident draws parallels to a previous case involving the Syrian-flagged Laodicea. The Laodicea had docked in Beirut carrying 10,000 metric tons of what Ukraine claimed to be stolen flour and barley. While Lebanon initially seized the vessel, it later allowed it to depart for Syria.
It is noteworthy that both the Finikia and the Laodicea are owned by the Syrian General Authority for Maritime Transport. The US had imposed sanctions on this authority and its owned ships since 2015 due to alleged involvement in Syria's war.
Ukraine estimated that around 500,000 metric tons of grain it labeled as "plundered Ukrainian grain" had entered Syria in 2022, originating from multiple ports. This influx occurred subsequent to the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The expired deal that previously facilitated the safe Black Sea export of Ukraine's grain in July has further complicated the situation.