Romania Aims to Double Ukrainian Grain Transit Capacity

Russia attacks Ukraine's agricultural and port infrastructure and refuses to extend a year-old safe passage grain corridor.

Image courtesy of Ian Taylor on Unsplash

Romania aims to double the monthly transit capacity of Ukrainian grain to its flagship Black Sea port of Constanta to 4 million tons in the coming months, particularly via the Danube river, Transport Minister Sorin Grindeanu said.

Ukraine is one of the world's top grain exporters and Russia has been attacking its agricultural and port infrastructure after refusing to extend a year-old safe passage grain corridor brokered by the United Nations and Turkey. The attacks included its inland Danube ports of Reni and Izmail.

Before Russia pulled out of the safe passage corridor, the Danube ports accounted for around a quarter of Ukraine's grain exports. Grain is loaded onto barges, shipped downriver through territorial waters of European Union and NATO-member Romania, and onwards from Romania's Black Sea port of Constanta.

By hiring more staff to ease the passage of vessels into the Danube's Sulina canal and by finalizing connecting infrastructure projects - many of them EU-funded - Romania could increase the transit capacity, Grindeanu told reporters.

"I have underlined the importance of Romanian rail, road and naval transport routes to maintain a constant flow for Ukrainian exports," Grindeanu said after a meeting with representatives of the EU, the United States, Moldova and Ukraine in the Danube town of Galati.

"It was a good meeting which will lead us through the agreed measures to raise grain transit capacity from over 2 million tons per month at present to almost 4 million tons in the coming months."

Grindeanu said Romania's Danube administration agency will have 60 pilots to take ships in and out of the Sulina canal by end-August. An EU-funded project to make sailing possible at night on Sulina will likely be completed in October, he said.

"When all these investments are made and the number of pilots increases, Romanian ports of Galati and Braila will automatically be used alongside Reni and Izmail."

Present at the meeting Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said the Danube remained "one of the key and attractive logistics routes for export of Ukrainian agricultural products."

"Ukraine also is interested in the possibility to organize additional places for roadside trans-shipment of vessels in the territorial waters in Romania in particular near the port of Constanta and near Sulina channel," he said.

"We also asked Romanian side to ensure that at least 14 vessels per day to and from Ukrainian ports on the Danube through Sulina channel will be processed."

(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by David Evans)