Tectonic shifts for Black Sea container market in 2022
The military aggression of Russia against Ukraine has already caused significant changes in the Black Sea container market. Some ports are noticing a decrease in container traffic, the others are gradually adding new volumes to their cargo turnover. Meanwhile, the region could face much more serious shifts in handling boxes at the maritime terminals.
The container traffic at the Black Sea ports (Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, and Georgia) seems to decrease by around 1 million TEU in 2022. Instead of handling 3.1 million TEU, as it was in the previous year, the region’s maritime terminals will process slightly over 2 million TEU boxes by the end of the current year. Such a forecast was made by Informall BG, the Odesa-based consulting firm focused on researching the freight market of the Black Sea region.
The decrease in container traffic is caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began on 24 February 2022 and the following events. First, it is about the Russian blockade of the Ukrainian ports. “The seaports of Ukraine have been in blockade for almost 5 months and if ports are closed longer Ukraine will face an 85% container volume drop at the end of 2022,” said Alexander Khromov, project manager at Informall BG. Second, it is the impact of the EU sanctions on Russia. According to the company’s modest estimation, the Russian Black Sea ports could lose up to 30 per cent of their container turnover.
Hope for Middle Corridor
“As sanctions maintain pressure on the Russian logistics sector, we are witnessing tectonic shifts of seaborne and intermodal routes connecting South East Asia and Europe. Railway cargo traffic to and from Europe is moving away from transit option via Russia,” added Vassiliy Vesselovski CEO of Informall BG. This will lead to an increase in the container traffic on the Middle Corridor and consequently at the seaports of Romania, Bulgaria and Georgia.
According to Informall BG analysis, container terminals of Romania in Constanta are expected to achieve a 10 per cent throughput increase in 2022 mainly on account of Ukrainian export/import transit containers and cargoes moving via the Middle Corridor. Therefore, some port operators have already initiated new investments in their facilities. For instance, DP World is planning to construct a new ro-ro terminal in the Port of Constanta. As for Georgia, its harbours in Poti and Batumi will also increase the container volumes due to the shift of shippers and freight forwarders from the conventional route of the New Silk Road to the Middle Corridor that runs via Central Asia and the Caucasian region.
“Some Chinese exporters have already stopped utilising the Russian Trans-Siberian railway route, which was traditionally used to deliver Chinese products to the EU for many years. The EU sanctions against a major Russian state-owned railway company have also undermined its abilities to provide reliable and seamless service for Chinese shippers turning them away to alternative routes such as Trans-Caspian,” summed up Vassiliy Vesselovski.