Friday, May 27

Ukraine restricts rail exports due to Easter closures, traffic build-up

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KYIV — A build-up of wagons at border crossings and closures during the Easter holidays have prompted Ukraine to temporarily restrict goods supplies from Ukraine to Poland and Romania by rail, a senior representative of the Ukrainian railways said on Monday.

Ukraine, a major agricultural producer, used to export most of its goods through seaports, but since Russia’s invasion has been forced to export by train via its western border.

State-run railway company Ukrzaliznytsia imposed restrictions from April 16 to April 18 to Romania through the Dyakovo and Vadul-Siret crossings and to Poland through Yahodyn and Izov, the deputy director of its commercial department Valerii Tkachov said.

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The restrictions had been implemented “due to the accumulation of a large number of wagons in the direction of western crossings and appeals from Western partners to reduce the delivery of freight trains,” he said.

Neighboring countries “appeared not to be ready for a sharp increase in traffic on their territory of Ukrainian goods” due to a shortage of locomotives, wagons, limited traffic capacity and weight restrictions for freight wagons, Tkachov said.

He said 29,461 wagons were near border crossings as of April 14, and their number has risen 28% in the first two weeks of April.

“No decisions have been made to stop or restrict long-term traffic to European countries,” he told Reuters, adding that the temporary restrictions are “a purely operational solution that will allow crossings for unloading and remove traffic jams.”

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He did not specify the type of goods affected, but the APK-Inform consultancy said on Saturday the company had temporarily restricted the transportation of some agricultural goods through border crossings to Poland and Romania.

Ukraine’s agriculture minister Mykola Solskyi said last week the ministry’s main task was to find alternative ways to export Ukrainian grain. The country has 13 millions of tonnes of grain available for export.

The minister said Ukraine must free its silos for a new harvest in July, which could total up to 40 million tonnes, according to APK-Inform.

Before the war, Ukraine exported up to 6 million tonnes of grain and oilseed a month. In March, exports fell to 200,000 tonnes.

Ukrainian agriculture officials say the country could increase its grain exports by train via western borders to at least 1.5 million tonnes from 200,000 tonnes in March.

Tkachov said in theory, the capacity of rail freight for export per month is 102,660 wagons or approximately 6.6 million tonnes, including around 1.4 million tonnes of grain cargo, well below current levels. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Jan Harvey)