The war on Romania’s borders has created several crises, political, humanitarian, economic and, in this context, we would have liked the Romanian state officials to at least show their motivation to diminish the effects of these crises, but it seems that we will tick another missed opportunity in trying to prove that we are a modern state, with laws, institutions, know-how and effective practices, with pragmatic leaders.
„Famine” has become the new „keyword” when it comes to the aftermath of the war in Ukraine, in which the Russians blocked Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea, Mariupol and Odessa. The Russian blockade on grain exports from Ukraine, which provided food supplies primarily to North African and Middle Eastern states, was one of the topics of the Davos World Forum, at which David Beasley, director of the World Food Program, a UN agency, spoke. warned: „Famine will be present all over the world”!
Romania has an important role to play in resolving this crisis, because it is the only country that can ensure the transport of grain through its ports. This has been discussed for almost two months and is still being discussed. On Saturday, May 28, Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă met with a U.S. Senate delegation led by Robert Portman to discuss Ukrainian grain exports and „Romania’s efforts to support the food security of exposed states” in the Middle East and North Africa. „The port of Constanţa, the port of Galaţi, the traffic on the Danube to the heart of Europe, the railway transport were presented as variants of support by the prime minister Nicolae Ciucă”, it is said in the Government press release.
But the reality on the ground contradicts the Government’s statements. Romanian state officials are proving their inability to „live” in front of the whole world, because for two months they have not even been able to start the rehabilitation of 4 km of railway, which is the only route that trains with cereals from Ukraine can reach. the ports of Galați and Constanța, and from here to the rest of the world.
Transportation of grain through Poland failed because Polish railways have European gauge, not „Soviet” gauge
The only way to transport 25 million tones of grain is by rail to seaports, from where the grain is loaded into cargo to be transported to the ports of destination. In March, the Kyiv government tried to export grain through Poland, but thousands of wagons loaded with wheat and corn were stranded at the border due to differences between Ukrainian and Polish railways. In Ukraine there is a wide gauge railway, 1.524 mm, specific to the countries of the former USSR, and in Poland, and in all other European countries, including Romania, there is a European gauge railway, 1.435 mm.
There are stations that replace the „bogies”, the frames on which the axles and wheels of the railway wagons are mounted, from wide gauge to European gauge and vice versa, but such a station can only solve the transfer of a few dozen wagons per day, so it was dropped this option.
The only grain transport route in Ukraine passes through the Danube ports
In early April, Ukrainian authorities identified a new grain export route through the Ukrainian and Romanian ports on the Maritime Danube, the sector between Brăila and Sulina on which there is a 25-foot-deep waterway, ie 7.62 meters, which allows the movement of seagoing vessels, with capacities up to 25,000 tdw (ton dead weight).
Ukraine has two ports on the Danube where ships can dock, Reni and Ismail, but they have reduced loading and unloading capacities. The two ports have a capacity of 5 million tons per year, which the Ukrainian State Port Authority wants to increase to 10-15 million tons. But currently, their capacity is 1,500 tons / day, and it would take three days to load a 4,500-ton cargo.
On April 10, the Ukrainian and Romanian authorities agreed that the best way to resolve the crisis is to transfer grain exports from Ukraine through Romanian ports. Ideally, the grain from Ukraine should be transported to the Port of Constanța, from where it could be picked up by cargo ships with large transport capacities, but there is the same problem as in the case of the route through Poland, there is no „Soviet” gauge railway. at the border to the Port of Constanța.
Under these conditions, the only logistical option is the transfer of grain exports from Ukraine through the “New Basin” Port and the “Docuri” Port from Galați, where seagoing vessels with a capacity of up to 25,000 tdw can be operated. One million tonnes would be taken over by 40 such vessels, so exports could be secured in an achievable flow of goods. But the main advantage of this route is that the Ukrainian wagons can reach directly to the ports of Galați, which are also equipped with a wide gauge railway, specific to the Ukrainian railways.
The decisive advantage: the ports in Galați are equipped with a double gauge railway, European and „Soviet”
The „Soviet” gauge railway was installed from the border with the USSR to the ports of Galati in the 1960s, when Romania was part of the CAER (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance) and export-import operations were almost entirely with the USSR. The wide gauge railway was also necessary because the steel plant was being built in Galati, the production of which was based on ore imports from Ukraine.
Basically, between the border with Moldova and Ukraine and the three ports of Galați, the “New Basin” Port, the “Docuri” Port and the “Mineralier” Port, there is a network of tens of kilometers of “double gauge” railway lines. European gauge railway being doubled by wide gauge railway.
From Galați, cereals can be transported by barge convoys on the Danube and the Rhine-Main Canal to Rotterdam
There are other advantages offered by the ports of Galaţi. Cereals brought by train from Ukraine to the „Docks” and „New Basin” ports can be transported by ship on the Sulina Canal and the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, but can also be loaded on barges to be transported on the Danube and the Grand Canal. Black, to Constanța, where they can be loaded into high-capacity cargoes.
Another route is the transport of Ukrainian cereals by barge convoys from Galati upstream, on the Danube, to Austria, Germany and on the Rhine-Main Canal to Rotterdam. These three options would ensure the transportation of grain exported by Ukraine in a reasonable time, in order to avoid the food crisis.
Canada’s Prime Minister speaks of „deliveries through Danube ports”, but Bucharest officials keep insisting on the Constanța Port
One of the leaders concerned about avoiding the global food crisis by securing grain shipments from Ukraine is Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said after a visit to Kyiv that „Canada will help Ukraine identify options for exporting stored grain.” deliveries through Danube ports would be part of the solution ”. Therefore, at the international level, in Canada, it is important to start transporting grain „through the Danube ports”.
But, in Bucharest, the Romanian officials were relaxed, boasting about the Port of Constanța. After a meeting with a delegation of the US House of Representatives, the Minister of Transport, Sorin Grindeanu declared: “The port of Constanța has become the most important port on the Black Sea! The flow of transported goods has increased since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine and Romania has the chance to capitalize on the railway potential of the port. We have approached this opportunity. „Concerned about the „railway potential of the port”, Grindeanu descended twice in the Port of Constanța to free the railways from the port from the rusty freight wagons that occupied the lines. CFR Marfă relocated 337 wagons from the Port of Constanța.
Grindeanu wants to clear the lines to make room for wagons with grain and other goods exported by Ukraine. But on which railway will the trains run from the border with Ukraine to the Port of Constanța? On European gauge lines?!
European commissary of Transport comes to Bucharest to put on track the transport of grain from Ukraine to Galați
In April, the European commissary of Transport, Adina Vălean, arrived in Bucharest and managed to put the situation of Ukraine’s grain exports „on track”. A meeting was held at the Ministry of Transport attended by Adina Valean, Minister Grindeanu, Mustafa Nayyem, Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine and Andrei Spinu, Minister of Infrastructure of the Republic of Moldova. At the end of the meeting, a concrete goal was set:
„A 4 km gauge railway line in the port of Galati is being rehabilitated in the next 100 days to facilitate the direct access of Ukrainian and Moldovan trains,” the statement said. It was the first time that the Romanian authorities announced the rehabilitation of the railway between the border with Ukraine and the ports of Galați, but this was happening at the initiative of the European Commission.
How did the railroad get to scrap metal? Tens of kilometers of lines, sold to „one from Sibiu” for 250,000 euros
In fact, „rehabilitation” means rebuilding a section of railway that has „disappeared.” According to a businessman from Galați, part of the double gauge railway came to scrap metal following the liquidation of Minersort SA, a former state-owned import-export company. The company went into liquidation and in October 2019, for the amount of 1,386,000 euros, the surface of 188,169 sq m of urban land, warehouses and „CSI or CFR type railway lines, with a length of approximately 20 km” were put up for sale. .
„Equipment for unloading ore from CFR wagons, ore transfer equipment, double gauge,” Soviet „and European railways were cut and sold for scrap. Minersort had infrastructure like the world. Only the company had financial problems at one point, it ended up in the hands of liquidators, who sold to one in Sibiu, which is quite well known. They sold everything that meant railway in the Minersort for 250,000 euros. And now, we are struggling to rebuild a part of that railway, „said the entrepreneur. The 18-hectare land was bought by Corneliu Găvăneanu, who through the Metaltrade International company owns the “New Basin” Port and the “Docuri” Port. The 18 hectares of land were taken over at the „New Basin” Port.
On April 18, CFR SA launched the auction for the procedure of the rehabilitation for the 4 km railway
After discussions with the European Commissioner for Transport and the Ministries of Transport of Ukraine and Moldova, the officials from Bucharest started the procedure for awarding the contract for the rehabilitation of the 4 km railway. On April 18, CN CFR SA, through the Galați Regional Railways Branch, announced on SEAP the tender for the award of the contract “repair works of the 706 J broad gauge line – Galați Larga – Galați Basin – Galați Goods – Port Docuri and the normal Galati railway line Goods – Port Docks – Silo ”.
According to the SEAP announcement, it is necessary to complete the railway line, replace the used sleepers, complete the broken stone embankment and „remove the overgrown vegetation that no longer ensures visibility”, in order to bring the line in the parameters for traffic speed of 10 km / h freight trains ”. The estimated value of the contract is 1,289,415 lei, excluding VAT.
The deadline for receipt of bids was set for May 19. The duration of the works contract is 60 days. So, if all goes well, the work could be completed by August, a late deadline, because in Ukraine the new harvest appears, which will find the storage capacity blocked with the old harvest.
Failed auction. No company has submitted a bid for the rehabilitation of the 4 km of railway in Galați
The deadline for submitting bids was May 19, 2022, at 3:00 p.m. The surprise is that although three companies had registered, none of them submitted any bids and the tender was canceled: „this procedure was canceled because at the deadline for submission of bids none of the registered bidders encrypted the financial offer”, it is said in explanation posted on SEAP.
The next day, while visiting Galați, the Minister of Transport found the failure. „Yesterday was the deadline for submitting bids. I understand that three companies were initially registered. The companies that came are large, very good companies, preferring to channel to larger works, some of which are right in the portfolio of the Ministry of Transport. I don’t want to be misunderstood, they are extremely serious companies, which do their job on all the projects and on all the contracts they have signed with the Ministry of Transport „, said Sorin Grindeanu.
Where there was more money, there was a crowd of offers. May 17 was the deadline for submitting bids for „electrification and rehabilitation of the railway line Cluj Napoca-Oradea-Episcopia Bihor-Frontieră (166.2 km)”. For the 4 lots of works, 19 offers were submitted, from some companies from Romania, France, Italy, Austria and Turkey. The total value of the four works contracts was 7.54 billion lei, money coming through PNRR.
„Transport” alert: „We can’t find Soviet-type beams”! The manufacturer of „Soviet” sleepers in Aiud: „no one contacted us”!
The Minister of Transport also referred to a problem, of procuring some materials necessary for the rehabilitation of the 4 km of railway from Galați: “materiale it is quite difficult to access some materials, namely Soviet-type beams, because they are „Said Grindeanu.
Ministry officials who told Minister Grindeanu that there are no more „Soviet” type railway beams in Romania do not know the market, because one of the producers of railway beams in Romania is Prebet Aiud, which also produces beams for „Soviet” gauge railways for repairs to railways in border areas.
„We are doing this, we were contacted, but not for the Galati area. We do it not for export, but domestically, for the border areas”, Cosmin Poruțiu, general manager of Prebet Aiud, declared for” Club Feroviar”.
The new „acar Păun” will be the head of the CFR Galați Regional: „the director will answer with his head!”, says Grindeanu
A major failure of officials in Bucharest is already looming, which should explain why the global food crisis cannot be alleviated by exporting grain from Ukraine through „Danube ports” because the Romanian Government, through the Ministry of Transport, through CFR SA, failed in two months to find a company to rehabilitate 4 km of railway.
We can’t guess what explanations they will deliver „externally”, but for the explanation in the country of this failure we will go on the typical Romanian version, of the beheading of the „Păun mite”. On May 20, Minister Sorin Grindeanu declared in Galați that the idea of the tender is being abandoned and the procedure for awarding the contract by direct negotiation will be started and he has already discussed with the director of the CFR Galați Regional to deal with finding a company to do the work. If he fails, he will answer with his head!
„On Monday, we will enter the next stage of managing the situation. It will enter the stage of direct negotiation, so that the operationalization of this piece, of almost 5 km of railway, to be done as soon as possible. We will move very quickly. The director is responsible for this”, said Sorin Grindeanu.
A typical Romanian situation, with postponed decisions, inconsistency in setting priorities, unjustified postponements, will also be solved „typical Romanian”: the „Păun mite” will be beheaded, who is currently the head of the CFR Galați Regional.