Port of Gdańsk to handle additional 1-2 million tonnes of goods from Ukraine in 2022
Due to the blockade of Ukrainian ports by the Russians, the shippers from our eastern neighbour are looking for ways to export goods. They find them in Poland.
“We have now become the port of the first choice for our Ukrainian neighbours,” says Anna Drozd, the spokeswoman of the Port of Gdańsk Authority. Large volumes of freight also run to the Port of Gdynia. Despite the war, many plants in Ukraine are functioning, and a number of countries expect, among others, the wheat from there. However, the shipment of goods for export has become a real problem.
Disrupted traditional transit routes
Thousands of containers with goods for export are stuck at the Ukrainian ports, therefore local shippers are looking for routes to move cargo. In the first two months of the current year, the most important transit route for containerised goods from Ukraine, in terms of volume, ran via Belarus to the Lithuanian port in Klaipeda. After the EU imposed economic sanctions, which to a large extent also affected Belarus, this direction was interrupted.
Exporters from Ukraine now have a choice: the ports in Romania and Bulgaria (Constanta with a container terminal and the smaller Varna), accessible by road and rail-river transport, and the Polish ports of the Tri-City – accessible mainly by rail. They use both directions, according to media reports. Freight is mainly shipped from the Port of Odesa. Some of them also run to the Port of Hamburg.
“Together with our partners, we are looking for alternative logistic routes for shipping our freight via the European seaports. Moreover, we are discussing the possibilities of rail transport, increasing the volume of transit traffic by trucks,” said Mykola Solskyi, Ukrainian minister of agricultural policy and food.
The problem in all three countries is the fact that the railway lines on these routes are not adapted to large flows of goods, which have become of primary importance ad hoc. Particularly, the bottlenecks are the border crossings with limited capacity for transhipping the bulk goods such as grain, corn and coal. Therefore, several thousands of wagons are waiting in the queues on the western border of Ukraine.
In addition, freight trains have to share tracks with more passenger trains used to evacuate Ukrainian civilians. According to the Polish Ministry of Infrastructure, from 24 February to 14 April of the current year, a total of 2,634 passenger trains departed from the points near the border with Ukraine, including 2,195 regular trains and 439 additional trains.
Another problem for Ukrainian exporters of containerised goods is the limited number of empty boxes. “Some shipping lines allow import containers to enter Ukraine but under certain conditions such as a cash deposit for equipment or an additional premium in the insurance policy,” a representative of Informall, the Odesa-based consultancy firm, told a journalist of the London-based edition Loadstar.
According to the same source, “if the Ukrainian ports are blocked for too long, we can expect rapid development of both warehousing facilities on the Polish-Ukrainian border and transport companies to compensate for this”.
More transhipments at Port of Gdańsk
Despite these problems, “the concept of a logistic connection between Ukraine and the Polish coast, which we have been working on for several years, is practically working,” Anna Drozd told us. She reminds that, in autumn 2020, the Port of Gdańsk Authority signed an agreement on cooperation with the representatives of, inter alia, the Ukrainian Sea Port Authority that manages the maritime harbours in Ukraine including the Port of Odesa.
“We thought about creating an alternative logistics route to the Balkans by using the volumes running between Turkey and Scandinavia. We wanted to use the Ukrainian ports for this purpose, mainly Odesa, and the rail routes in cooperation with the Ukrainian Railway, PKP LHS and PKP Cargo,” says the spokeswoman of the Port of Gdańsk.
The actions undertaken turned out to be useful in the changed reality. “We have now become the port of the first choice for our Ukrainian neighbours,” adds Anna Drozd. The Port of Gdańsk mainly handles bulk, predominantly coal, iron ore, and grain, oil products but also containerised freight. The assortment may be expanded as the managers of the terminals in the port negotiate this with Ukrainian carriers and forwarders. They have enough reloading equipment, free reloading capacities and can quickly adapt to the changing market conditions.
“After the first two months of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we have not yet seen a significant increase in the transhipment of goods from Ukraine. However, due to the fact that the Port of Gdańsk is treated as a gateway to the world for Ukrainian foreign trade, we can expect an additional volume of around 1-2 million tonnes by the year’s end,” specifies Anna Drozd.