Seeking for new routes: how export goods being moved from Ukraine to Czechia
Congestion of wagons and trucks on the western border of Ukraine forces the freight forwarders to look for new ways to transport export goods to the countries of the European Union. Recently, the Eco Way Unions company established a new service for delivering wheat, soybeans and other grains from Ukraine to Czechia but bypassing Poland. The manager of this company, Stepan Gladyshev, talks about the features of the new supply chain in an interview with IntermodalNews.
How did the idea of a route for exporting goods from Ukraine to Czechia come about?
Back in February, a customer approached us with a request for moving some cargo from Bila Tserkva to Switzerland. Initially, we planned to send it to Izov, and thence via the broad-gauge railway to Sławków, and only then further to the west. However, the restrictions were subsequently introduced on Izov, so it was necessary to think about another route.
And this is where the freight train of the Czech Railways came in handy, transporting humanitarian aid from Czechia to Ukraine. It had to go back empty, so we decided to use these wagons. First, we delivered the cargo by trucks to Bila Tserkva and loaded it into covered wagons, which then ran from Bila Tserkva to Chop. Transhipment into the wagons of the Czech Railways took place in Chop. From Czechia, the cargo was delivered by road to Switzerland.
We are currently planning to deliver another cargo from Nizhyn to Montreal using a similar scheme. From Nizhyn to Batevo by rail in covered wagons, then in the European gauge wagons to Czechia. Transhipment from wagons to trucks takes place in Czechia for further delivery to Rotterdam in the Netherlands, where the goods are loaded onto a vessel for delivery to Montreal.
Why do you use covered wagons in particular? Because of the shortage of flat wagons and containers in Ukraine?
In Ukraine, there are very few companies that have their own rolling stock, namely flat wagons. Mostly, they have pre-approved plans and volumes of freight to be transported, so if a cargo appears at some company from the outside, it is very difficult to get the necessary number of containers and flat wagons. The cost also plays a significant role: now the transportation of 1 tonne of cargo in a covered wagon via Ukraine is cheaper than in a container.
Moreover, there is another important aspect. One Ukrainian covered wagon can carry up to 60 tonnes and the same quantity can be moved in a European gauge wagon. Therefore, if the cargo is in special liner bags, it is very easy to transport it from one wagon to another or to a truck. In the case of transhipment from a covered wagon to a container, certain difficulties arise because not all cargo in the container will be equal to the proportion: 1 wagon = 3 containers.
Although multimodal transport is best when using containers. For instance, we are working on the third route now. This is the delivery of rapeseed from the Odesa region to Trieste. This cargo was loaded into 40-foot containers that will run to Slovakia, where it will be transshipped into maritime containers for moving to the port and subsequent loading onto a ship.
And where exactly in Chop do you transship your cargo?
There are several terminals in and near Chop. We work with several at once. Transhipment takes place at that facility, which currently has free capacity for a specific shipment. Sometimes it is necessary to organise mobile wagon-to-wagon reloading. This is done by a special contractor who has experience in such activities.
How many trains have already been sent from Ukraine to Czechia?
One train has already been dispatched. Now we are preparing the second one. The train from Czechia to Ukraine runs only once a week, so it is necessary to adjust the shipment according to its schedule. One train can take 2,000 tonnes. It’s not much compared to a bulker but it is already something.
As far as I understand, your company is not considering the possibility of resuming transport through Izov?
Currently, our company prefers to use the Mostyska railway border crossing for transshipping operations. Izov is very busy. Our soybean cargo had a 2-month transit time through Izov.
And how are things going on the railways of Slovakia? Are you facing any obstacles?
Wagons are running via Slovakia without any serious delays. If we talk about problems, there are certain nuances with the payment of VAT when importing. The terminal must know the final recipient. In this matter, it is necessary to establish cooperation with local companies. In general, we have no complaints about this direction.
What are your plans for the coming months?
The export of the new crop has now begun. We also plan to join this process, so we will develop our route through Czechia. In addition, we are currently negotiating with German partners to establish a new service from Ukraine to Germany.
And the last question. Aren’t you afraid that the unblocking of three Ukrainian ports will take away your work?
Ports are more focused on large shipments. We work with much smaller volumes. In my opinion, there is enough work for everyone. So it is very good that the ports are working. Perhaps, in the medium term, this will reduce the pressure on railway border checkpoints on the western border of Ukraine. There is plenty of cargo. I believe that every cargo will find its way, and we will help in this.