18 Sep 2023 15:57

Ukrainian Danube Shipping Co looking to set up operator in Constanta for offshore transshipment of Ukrainian grain

MOSCOW. Sept 18 (Interfax) - Ukrainian Danube Shipping Company (UDP) has asked management of the largest Romanian port of Constanta to allow it to set up a port operator to help with offshore transshipment of Ukrainian grain, Ukrainian media quoted the UDP press service as saying.

"Ukraine needs to export more than 5 million tonnes of agricultural products per month this year and next. Most of it has to be transshipped in the Danube. Other routes are too expensive," the company said.

It said 1.2 million tonnes of agricultural products are exported each month via the Sulina Canal and another 1.3 million tonnes via Constanta.

"Exports through the Danube ports have to increase by at least 50%," UDP said, adding that 60% of the grain exported through Constanta came from the river fleet. More than 700,000 tonnes of agricultural products are delivered here every month by barges. If Constanta allows the development of offshore transshipment, then river fleet operators will be ready to increase transportation volumes by another 500,000 tonnes.

UDP said the port of Constanta had always relied on the development of terminals transshipping grain from road and rail transport: barges were seen "as something secondary" and "as an addition to the main flow."

"As a result, sea vessels are positioned for loading, and barge convoys have to wait. Last year, the waiting period for UDP barges at Constanta reached 60 days. Currently, there are about 600 barges at Constanta, which have been waiting for weeks to be unloaded," the company said.

UDP has only operated by ship-to-ship loading in 2023. The company's fleet turnaround (Reni/Ismail/Chila/Constanta) averages 22 days.

UDP knows they can work more quickly, but there are not enough cranes or moorings for sea vessels on the Romanian side.

The company said Ukraine had come up with plans to organize three more anchorages, one of which would be assigned to Ukraine. There is already a pool of interested investors and carriers. UDP is ready to initiate the creation of a Ukrainian port operator in Constanta, subject to Romania's consent.

"The shipping company's fleet allows us to transfer from ship to ship up to 300,000 tonnes of grain per month. We will be supported by other carriers: in total we are ready to provide an additional 500,000 tonnes," UDP said.

It said the Danube ports transshipped cargo mainly to small sea vessels - coaster ships able to carry 10,000-15,000 tonnes. Such consignments are intended for Turkey, Greece, and Egypt. Ukraine's traditional markets are located in Southeast Asia, where grain is delivered in large quantities and loaded onto Panamax vessels. However, large ships can only be loaded in Constanta.

"Each mooring can trans-ship 15,000-20,000 tonnes per day. This is a real alternative to the Odessa ports," UDP said.

UDP representatives made these proposals to colleagues from Romania, the United States and the European Union during a meeting in Constanta. The talks will continue on September 19. UDP said it hoped Romania would approve the plan.