Freight News, Rail, Road

Brussels to set up solidarity lanes to shift Ukraine grain

[ May 13, 2022   //   ]

The European Commission is to create ‘solidarity lanes’ to help Ukraine export its agricultural produce. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its blockade of Ukrainian ports, thousands of rail wagons and trucks are waiting for clearance. The average current waiting time for wagons is 16 days, but up to 30 days at some borders. More grain is still stored and held back in Ukrainian silos ready for export. Among the challenges are differing rail gauge widths so most goods need to be transhipped to lorries or wagons that fit the EU standard gauge using the limited available facilities.

Under normal circumstances, 75% of Ukraine’s grain production is exported, generating around 20% of national annual export revenues. Before the war, Ukrainian Black Sea ports accounted for 90% of its exports of grain and oilseeds. Around one third of the exports were destined for Europe, China and Africa.

The Commission is calling operators to urgently make additional vehicles available. It will set up a matchmaking logistics platform and ask member states to designate dedicated Solidarity Lanes contact points.

It says that Ukrainian agricultural export shipments should be prioritised, and infrastructure managers should make rail slots available for these exports. It is also calling on operators to transfer mobile grain loaders to border terminals. A road transport agreement with Ukraine will also remove bottlenecks and, in order to encourage EU transport operators to allow their vehicles to enter Ukraine, the Commission will also investigate options for top-up financial guarantees.

The Commission is also urging urges national customs authorities to apply maximum flexibility and to ensure adequate staffing to accelerate procedures at border crossing points.

The Commission will assess available storage capacity in the EU and coordinate with Member States to help secure more capacity for temporary storage of Ukrainian exports.

For the medium to long term, the next round of Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) calls for proposals will allow support for projects improving transport connections to Ukraine, including rail connections and rail-road terminals. The Commission plans to sign a high-level agreement with Ukraineto extend the Trans-European Transport Network.