Polish and Ukrainian logistic industries facing challenge of arranging new ways for moving goods
The war in Ukraine and the need to create new export and import channels are the considerable challenges for rail carriers and the logistics industry in Poland. To enable the export of grain and other freight, the transport routes must be clarified. How to create an alternative to the Ukrainian economy was discussed by the participants of the Poland-Ukraine Business Meeting, which took place in Gdańsk.
“In recent weeks, the flows of cargo transported by Polish railways have changed significantly. The import of coal from Russia has been suspended. In its place, raw material is imported from Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan. The challenge for logistics operators will be to develop routes for transporting coal from these locations,” believes Krzysztof Pietrzyk, member of the management board of CTL Logistics.
Ukraine, on the other hand, has a big problem with the import of liquid fuels, as before the outbreak of the war it imported them from Russia and Belarus. “Currently, fuels are sent to Ukraine by trains from the EU countries. The amount of containers imported to Ukraine has decreased significantly, but new shipments have appeared in rail transport, such as the export of agricultural products. I think that, despite various problems, it will be possible to handle more shipments from this country, as the volumes transported to and from Russia have decreased, which means that carriers have free rolling stock. On the other hand, import to Ukraine is currently carried out by Ukrainian trucks, because insurers do not want to provide insurance policies for the entry of Polish trucks and rail vehicles into a country in which the war is ongoing. Unloading from shipowners’ containers takes place in warehouses in the Tri-City area,” says Krzysztof Pietrzyk.
Polish and European rail carriers declare that they are ready to accept new orders from Ukrainian companies. “We will transport containerised freight to Ukraine. Currently, a certain difficulty is the high level of filling of storage yards in maritime terminals and the congestion of transhipment terminals at the border, which are a bottleneck. A team working on logistics solutions for transport from and to Ukraine is functioning within the DB Cargo group,” assures Lukasz Polaczek, director for intermodal transport at DB Cargo Polska.
Due to the large increase in interest in freight transport across the Polish-Ukrainian border, a problem with handling these orders has appeared. “There is a lack of competence to handle freight at the border, as the freight traffic at these border checkpoints was low in the previous years. There is a need to improve customs services, veterinary and phytosanitary clearance. Such problems occurred every time when freight transport was launched via alternative crossings for Małaszewicz,” comments the representative of CTL Logistics.
Experience of freight forwarders
Polish logistic companies have been cooperating with Ukrainian companies for years and are familiar with this market. These competences are badly needed in the current situation. However, the emergence of a large number of shipments that have to be transported across the border requires a large mobilisation of the logistics industry.
“At the moment, we run a network of regular intermodal connections from ports to various terminals in Poland, which can be used for shipping single containers. Currently, there are no such connections in transport to Ukraine, so it is only possible to launch block-train or road transport. Now, we have many orders for warehousing freight for the Ukrainian market. Our warehouse in Gdańsk works in three shifts. We provide transhipment of goods from containers picked up at the Polish maritime terminals onto the trucks of Ukrainian carriers,” says Tomasz Langowski, vice president of Langowski Logistics.
Polish logistics operators must also pay attention to the difficulties caused by the sanctions imposed by the EU and the US on Russia and Belarus. “Economic sanctions are not a new issue for us, as they have already been imposed on Iran. The restrictions imposed on Russia and Belarus are, however, more serious and concern more categories of freight. The list of goods covered by sanctions is changing and the customs departments of companies have to keep an eye on it,” adds Tomasz Langowski.
Use the potential of railways
Last year, the Ukrainian ports handled 153 million tonnes of freight, 95 per cent of which was handled by the five largest ports. At the moment, efforts are underway to redirect these shipments through the maritime terminals in Gdańsk and Konstanta. However, the possibilities of moving and transhipping Ukrainian goods in these ports are limited. “Ukrainian export will have to be divided between various European ports. Border crossings are a separate problem. We are currently shipping containerised shipments through Medyka and Hrubieszów. There is no access to terminals with appropriate handling equipment at other crossings. At this point, the launch of transport through a greater number of border crossings is our priority task,” comments Andrii Miroshnikov, head of the commercial operations department at the Ukrainian Railway.
Ukrainian Railway wants to increase the freight volumes sent across the Polish-Ukrainian border. “We currently use only 50 per cent of the potential of cross-border infrastructure. Now we dispatch 812 wagons a day, and we can do 1,256. The problem is insufficient cooperation between carriers, terminal operators, border authorities and ports. We have contracts with 12 Polish carriers, but we actually carry out transport in cooperation with half of them. There is a large reserve of rolling stock and competencies that we do not use,” states the representative of the Ukrainian Railway.
Unfortunately, the possibilities of introducing additional large cargo flows from the east into the Polish railway network are limited due to structural problems that have been pointed out by railway carriers for years. “Unlike, for example, in Germany, in Poland, railway undertakings bear 100 per cent of infrastructure costs, and the transport speed is very low. There are capacity issues. At the key railway junction stations, we can even speak of a ‘logistic catastrophe’. The question is whether high flexibility can be expected from an over-regulated industry working on low margins. We need a serious rail freight development programme that will make this mode of transport able to respond to situations such as a sudden increase in transport needs,” notes Krzysztof Pietrzyk.