Constanta seeks EU funding to boost processing capacity

The Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta has asked for EU funds and government loan guarantees as part of a plan to facilitate a more significant contribution to the export of grain from Ukraine.

In July the Romanian government said that it was considering a pilot programme to buy equipment that would increase operating speed in grain terminals.” It was also working on rehabilitating 35 previously redundant port rail lines and removing hundreds of rusty wagons that had been blocking the tracks.

The Constanta Port Business Association has said that the 10 port operators who handle Ukrainian goods in addition to their regular customers will need €340m of investment in equipment to boost processing speed.

Dock workers in Constanta have worked for months to ship out Ukrainian grain in addition to their usual loads from Romania and its land-locked neighbours Serbia, Hungary, Moldova and Austria.

Until the recently announced deal that is enabling ships to traverse a narrow corridor from three ports on the Ukrainian Black Sea Coast to just north of Istanbul, Turkey, the Constanta route was one of the few available to Ukraine.

Exporters have moved approaching 1.5m tonnes of Ukrainian grain through Constanta since February.

Operators in Romania expected to continue to ship Ukrainian grain as it would take time to fully implement the Black Sea deal. The grain arrives by road, rail or barge from the Ukrainian Danube river ports of Reni and Izmail.

Romanian port operator Comvex said that it would fill two ships later this week — one carrying 30,500 tonnes of Ukrainian and Romanian corn headed to Libya and the second loaded with 45,000 tonnes of Ukrainian corn for Iran.

Comvex has invested €4m in a second barge offloading platform which became operational at the end of July, and boosted its total processing capacity to 84,000 tonnes in and 70,000 tonnes out per day.

Ukraine hopes to export 20m tonnes of grain held in silos and 40m tonnes from the harvest now under way, from Odesa and nearby Pivdennyi (Yuzhne) and Chornomorsk.

By the end of June, Comvex had handled roughly 70% of Ukrainian grains and other goods to come through Constanta, including almost 800,000 tonnes of iron ore. It plans to invest €60m this year and next to boost operations, said Panait.

Transport from Ukraine has been hampered by rail infrastructure problems and low water levels on the Danube after weeks of high temperatures and drought.