Odessa, Ukraine (PortSEurope) May 9, 2022 – Ukraine estimates the losses inflicted on its port infrastructure by Russian shelling, bombardment and missile strikes at tens of billions of Ukrainian hryvnias (billions of euros). It expects rebuilding and repair of ports after the war to take up to 2.5 years.
Some 70 ships remain blocked in Ukraine’s Azov and Black Sea ports, including six ships under foreign flags in the Mariupol Port, which can’t leave the port without repairs. Such repairs are impossible due to the destruction of the port’s shipyard.
According to Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Infrastructure, Yuri Vaskov, infrastructure in Mariupol port is the most damaged, but there is also significant damage to the ports in Berdyansk, Olbia, Chernomorsk and Nikolaev.
Vaskov claims that many investors are ready to restore port’s infrastructure: “In our ports, 80% of the cargo is processed by investors. All of them, according to our information, are ready to invest their own funds in the restoration of damaged infrastructure and in the development of new structures. After the end of the war, the issue of export and import will be a priority”.
He also said that the government is already in negotiation with foreign financial institutions and governments for rebuilding.
Ukraine loses €155 million per day due to blocked ports, according to Ukrainian media. None of the country’s Black and Azov Seas ports are operational. Ukraine, one of the world’s biggest grain and metals exporters, became a landlocked country after Russia blocked the Azov Sea and all its Black Sea ports.
In 2021, Ukraine’s Black and Azov Sea ports handled 145.5 million tonnes of cargo, according to Forbes Ukraine magazine. Today, the combined efforts of Ukraine’s railway and road transport can handle only about 19 million tonnes. The three ports on the Danube River, that are free and operational, processed 5.3 million tonnes in 2021 and can handle over 4 million tonnes today.
Russian missile strikes again hit Ukrainian Black Sea ports of Odessa and Mykolaiv/Nikolaev (on the left side of the Yuzhnyi Bug River) in early April. Artillery shelling against the Azov Sea port of Mariupol continued for almost two months until end-April. Azov Sea’s port of Berdyansk remains occupied by invading Russian forces.
On April 3, Russian missiles destroyed fuel storage facilities and damaged a refinery near Odessa in an escalation of the process of Ukraine’s ports destruction in the invasion that started on February 24. The city of Mariupol is over 80% destroyed, according to Ukrainian media. Port of Mykolaiv is heavily damaged after a March 22 shelling.
A free Mariupol and Odessa prevent Russia from establishing a land corridor to the Moldova’s breakaway region of Transdniestria, occupied by Russia 30 years ago. A Ukraine-controlled Mariupol prevents Russia from establishing a land corridor to Ukraine’s Crimea, occupied by Russia in 2014. Connecting Crimea and Transdniestria to Russia, as well as depriving Ukraine from access to the sea, seems to be the new goal of Moscow.
Until the re-opening of the Black Sea for shipping Ukraine’s Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi (Belgorod-Dnestrovsky) Commercial Sea Port is to function as a transport and logistics centre (TLC). The port is in a close proximity (120-200 km) to the country’s three operating ports on the Danube River – Izmail, Reni and Ust-Dunaysk. It is on the north-western shore of Black Sea at Dniester River estuary, to the south-west of Odessa.
Before the Russian invasion, more than 70% (worth some $47 billion a year) of Ukrainian exports passed through country’s sea ports.
Until 2014 Mariupol port handled some 15 million tonnes of cargo a year. After the Russian occupation of parts of Donbas, the port’s turnover was reduced by a factor of three. Just before the February 24 invasion of Russian military the port was looking at processing over 7 million tonnes of cargo in 2022.
The Kherson port (Black Sea) handled about 3 million while Berdyansk port (Azov Sea) was processing some 2 million tonnes of cargo before the Russian invasion. In the past few days there are indications that Russian occupying forces are resuming Berdyansk port’s operations.
The largest Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea, that handled more than 85% of country’s sea freight, remain under the control of Kiev – Mykholaev, Olvia, Odessa, Chornomorsk, South (Pivdennyi, Yuzhnyi).
The Danube River
The war created opportunities for growth in three small ports at the mouth of the Danube. These are the only three ports out of 13 that Ukraine has, that are fully operational, but in peacetime, they accounted for only 5% of exports. Now they can carry the same cargo volumes as in peacetime, but the export potential of the Danube River is significant.
It all depends on the railway infrastructure in this direction. If the railway is improved and renovated, this is a way for Ukrainian commodities to reach the Romania Black Sea port of Constanta
Through its land border and the three river ports Ukraine will be able to export up to 7 million tonnes of cargo per month. But this is not enough – in March for example, only 415,000 tonnes of grain were exported (by railway), which is 79% less compared to the same period last year.
Polish ports can take over some of the Ukrainian exports, but they do not have much spare capacity. Romania’s Constanta is already overloaded and is also with outdated railway infrastructure. Bulgarian Black Sea ports of Varna and Burgas have spare capacity and good intermodal infrastructure but are further away from Ukraine. The ports in the three Baltic states, despite being smaller, can also be used.
The problems with Ukrainian commodities export is an opportunity for neighbouring ports – according to experts, they can earn up to $50 per tonne of Ukraine’s grains and metals.
Cargo turnover of Ukrainian ports in 2021 (in million tonnes): Pivdennyi (Yuzhny, South) 53.5; Mykholaev (Nikolaev) 29.8; Chornomorsk 25.6; Odessa 22.5; Mariupol 6.8; Olvia 5.1; Berdyansk 1.6; Herson 0.5; Izmail 3.9; Reni 1.4; Ust Dunayisk 0.06.
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