As Russia threatens ships in the Black Sea, a Romanian route provides a lifeline

A ship at the Romanian port of Sulina, the main gateway to ports in the Danube River delta, on Aug. 5, 2023. The nearby Sulina Channel has kept grain flowing since Russia started attacking Ukrainian ports. [Andreea Campeanu/The New York Times]

After more than two weeks stuck in a Black Sea traffic jam of cargo ships waiting their turn to enter the Danube River delta to pick up Ukrainian grain, the Egyptian seamen finally reached solid ground last weekend and replenished their diminishing stock of fresh water and food.

Delight at having enough to eat and drink, however, mingled with alarm that, after their brief stop to pick up supplies in the Romanian Black Sea port of Sulina, they would be heading up the Sulina Channel, a branch of the Danube inside NATO territory, and then into a stretch of the river where Russia has in recent weeks attacked at least two Ukrainian river ports.

"It is too dangerous up there now. Boom, boom," said an Egyptian crew member from Alexandria, who gave only his first name, Ismail.

When Russia pulled out of a deal last month offering safe passage to vessels picking up grain...

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