With the limited functionality imposed on the ports of Odesa by Russia’s war, the nearby Danube ports have offered valuable alternative export channels.

In the first 11 months of 2023, almost 30 million tons of cargo were transshipped through them, a 45.6 percent increase over the same period in 2022 and more than seven times that moved in 2021. Ukraine’s Ministry of Infrastructure aims to reach a monthly export load of 4 million tons.

Such significant increases in the volume of transshipment became possible thanks to the powerful work of the government team and Odesa OVA. Specifically, these were:

  • Hr.20 billion ($536 million) in compensation provided for ships damaged or destroyed as a result of hostile Russian action during transportation in the internal waters of Ukraine.
  • The water area of the port of Ust-Dunaisk was expanded, which made it possible to carry out raid transshipment of cargo onto vessels with a larger carrying capacity than was possible before.
  • The port of Ust-Dunaisk was sold at a price four times greater than the opening price. Private investments have already begun to work on increasing the efficiency of the port.
  • Dredging works were provided, which contributed to increase the operational depths of the ports and the adjacent shipping channels allowing large-tonnage vessels to be serviced.
  • A safe corridor for cargo transportation by sea was established following Russia's withdrawal from the “grain agreement”.

The development of the Danube ports offers alternative routes for the export of Ukrainian products while the threats to the ports of Great Odesa persist. It should not just be considered an alternative or a backup option, but also for the permanent creation of new export channels, which will definitely be useful, even when the entire port infrastructure of Ukraine is working at full capacity.

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I propose a set of steps for consideration which, in my opinion, will allow the full development and use of the potential of the ports of the Danube region:

  • Permit night navigation on the Sulina channel. While such navigation has already started, there is currently a lack of pilots whose professional level meets the qualification requirements to guide ships through the canals and water areas of the ports of the Danube region at night.
  • Increase the capacity of railway and road checkpoints in the format: Romania – USA – European Commission – Ukraine, with the participation of Moldova.
  • Further synchronize work processes between the Ukrainian and Romanian ports of the Danube cluster and negotiate the use of the port in Constanta. This requires joint staff training programs, creating conditions to avoid double checks, harmonizing the work of different services to speed up transshipment, etc.
  • Attract investments and donor funds for the construction of premises for the covered storage of agricultural products. Currently, such warehouses are being built by Ukrainian investors, but more powerful international assistance is needed to be given the lack of domestic investment.

And finally, I would single out one more important prerequisite for the successful development of the Danube regional transport cluster. According to the conclusions of the respected US analytical center Atlantic Council, until recently, political stability in the territory of Bessarabia was achieved at the expense of economic stagnation.

Italian Government Delegation and UNESCO Visit Odesa to Sign Reconstruction Pledge
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Obviously, this approach is outdated. Therefore, it is time to apply serious strategic planning for the development of the Bessarabian region and the Danube coast. As Ukraine’s President says: “For each of our regions, for each of our cities, for each of our communities, we need our own vision.”

The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.

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