At the Romanian port of Constanta on the Black Sea, dockworkers worked for months shipping Ukrainian grain in addition to their usual shipments from Romania and its landlocked neighbours.
Shipments are constantly arriving. The grain, which is poured onto conveyor belts at the Constanta terminals, perfumes the air and coats workers seeking shade under steel silos with a thin layer of golden dust.
The export route is one of the few still open to Ukraine, which before the conflict with Russia was one of the world’s leading grain suppliers. Exporters have shipped 1.46 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain via Constanta since Russia invaded the country in February and war halted shipments from Ukrainian Black Sea ports.
The first grain ship to leave the Ukrainian port of Odessa since the start of the war under a safe passage agreement set sail on Monday. Romanian operators expect to continue shipping Ukrainian grain as full implementation of this agreement will take time.
Grain arrives by road, rail or barge from the Ukrainian ports of Reni and Izmail on the Danube.
The safe passage agreement was seen as a beacon of hope in a worsening global food crisis. Turkey, which brokered the deal with the United Nations, expects about one grain ship to leave Ukrainian ports every day as long as the deal is valid.
Romanian port operator Comvex said it will fill two ships later this week, one carrying 30,500 tons of Ukrainian and Romanian maize bound for Libya and the second 45,000 tons of Ukrainian maize bound for Libya. Iran.
“It all depends on how the Istanbul deal works and how much Ukrainian ports can ship,” Comvex director Viorel Panait told Reuters.
“With all our hearts, we wish they could restore their channel streams. But we’re here, ready to help.”
Comvex invested 4 million euros ($4.09 million) in a second barge offloading platform which became operational at the end of July and increased its total handling capacity to 84,000 tonnes inbound and 70,000 tonnes output per day.
Last year, the port of Constanta shipped a record 25.2 million tonnes of grain from Romania and its landlocked neighbors Serbia, Hungary, Moldova and Austria.
Known as the breadbasket of Europe, Ukraine hopes to export 20 million tonnes of grain stored in silos and 40 million tonnes of the current harvest, initially from Odessa and nearby Pivdennyi and Chornomorsk, for help make way for the new crop.
By the end of June, Comvex had handled about 70% of Ukrainian grain and other goods that must pass through Constanta, including nearly 800,000 tons of iron ore. It plans to invest 60 million euros this year and next to boost its operations, Panait said.
Transport from Ukraine has been hampered by rail infrastructure problems and low water levels on the Danube after weeks of high temperatures and drought, which means barges cannot carry full loads.
Port authorities said 183,581 tons of grain were currently on their way to Constanta, which will also continue to export other Ukrainian goods not covered by the safe passage agreement, including steel products, iron ore and pipes.
The Constanta Port Business Association, which Panait also heads, said the ten port operators that handle Ukrainian goods in addition to their regular customers will need 340 million euros in equipment investments to increase the speed of treatment.
They asked for funds from the European Union and loan guarantees from the government. In July, the Romanian government told Reuters it was considering a pilot program to acquire equipment “to increase the operating speed of grain terminals”. It is also working to rehabilitate 35 port railways and remove hundreds of rusting wagons blocking the tracks.