difficulties in all directions
Ukrainian grain exports are overwhelming Romanians
6/18/2022 5:39 AM
Romania is an alternative route for transporting Ukrainian grain. But as President Iohannis says, it remains a “logistical challenge of impressive proportions.”
The Russian offensive war in Ukraine has faced the EU’s neighboring country, Romania, with the difficult task of serving as an alternative route for Ukrainian grain exports. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis recently described the problem as a “logistical challenge of impressive proportions” due to a lack of transport infrastructure. Florin Goidea, CEO of Constanta, Romania’s largest Black Sea port, sees no quick fix.
The actual transport routes from Ukraine to Constanta are difficult. “More than 80 percent of incoming Ukrainian grain enters our port on small cargo ships across the Danube,” says Goidea. The Danube Delta forms the Ukrainian-Romanian border in the southeast. These river cargo ships have to travel along the Danube from the Ukrainian Danube ports of Reni and Ismail – first through the meandering Chilean delta branch to Cernavoda inland and then through the Danube-Black Sea Channel to Constanta, the port manager explains. It is a good 320 kilometers from Ismail.
The journey by truck is even more complicated: Trucks from Ukraine sometimes have to wait weeks at border crossings due to formalities. In contrast, in the port of Constanta, 20 to 25 arriving Ukrainian grain trucks arrive every day, causing Goidea to complain. Rail access is almost blocked because the Romanian state railway CFR has parked 700 disused wagons at the port station – more than half of which have been removed in the meantime. The 35 railway lines in the port are now to be upgraded for 200 million lei (40.8 million euros), said Transport Minister Sorin Grindeanu.
Plans for expansion, but in the early stages
There is a government project to expand and modernize the port, but this is only in the planned feasibility studies phase, says Goidea. Among other things, it is about increasing the number of berths by 17 from the current 140 and deepening the port basin to accommodate larger ships. The director of the port estimates the cost at half to one billion euros and negotiations are underway with the World Bank. The port administration also wants to apply for EU funds.
From the beginning of the Ukrainian war until the beginning of June, 15 ships with a total of 242,000 tons of Ukrainian grain left Constant, Goidea said. That would be just 1.21 percent of the 20 million tons of grain from last year’s harvest that Ukraine is currently planning to export. During 2021, 25 million tonnes of grain from Romanian production and neighboring countries were exported through Constant. And another harvest is just around the corner.