Ukraine works to bring back idle inland ports on Danube Delta

Ukraine is working to bring back into operation inland ports that are located along the northern edge of the Danube River Delta. The removal of Russian forces from Snake Island was said to have made this feasible.

The northernmost branch of the Danube delta follows the southern border of Ukraine. It is lined with a series of small riverine ports. With larger ports available on the Black Sea and alternative ports available for river traffic, these locations had not been economically viable for many years. But with all of Ukraine’s Black Sea coastline blockaded by the Russian navy, their potential has been re-examined.

Historically the ports of Odesa and Mykolaiv have processed the majority of Ukraine’s exports of grain, but neither of these seaports currently access global trade.

Since February the problem of exporting Ukraine’s crops has been looming large, with silos and warehouses full of grain with no means of transport to take it to eager importers such as Egypt. About 25m tonnes of grain was currently sitting in storage. The alternatives, road, rail and river transport up the Danube exist, but are not scalable to a sufficient degree.

However, every little helps, and some of the smaller ports on the Danube are now taking up part of the load. The port at Reni, which is about 50nm upriver on the northern branch of the Danube, is undergoing reactivation. Alla Stoyanova, head of the Odesa region’s department of agricultural policy, said that the Reni port complex could not replace Odesa, but it could make a contribution.

The inland ports will transship cargo by barge into Romania for onward transport. The area is accessible by two waterways: the narrow Sulina Canal through Romanian territory, which has limited capacity; and the Bysky estuary, the mouth of the Danube’s northern branch. Access to coastal trade would mean an easing of the logistical pressure on the Sulina Canal. Stoyanova said that more than 150 ships were waiting to enter the Sulina Canal, which had a capacity of five or six vessels a day. Until the liberation of Snake Island, just 25 miles from the mouth of the Bystry estuary, that route had been closed.

“Given the liberation of Zmiinyi (Snake) Island from Russian troops and the build-up of a large number of ships waiting to proceed through the Sulina Canal, it is possible to use the channel of the Bystre estuary of the Danube-Black Sea waterway for the entry/exit of ships transporting agricultural produce,” Ukraine announced at the end of last week.