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Ukraine transport grinds to a halt

[ February 28, 2022   //   ]

Transport routes to and from Ukraine have ground to a halt amid the ongoing invasion by Russian forces, reports Jochum Reuter, general manager and vice-president strategic alliances at supply chain visibility specialist FourKites.

He says: “The situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate and while our hearts remain with those directly involved, we are also thinking about the enormous impact it is having on supply chains.”

Not unexpectedly, there is severe disruption to all f transport and where work-arounds are available, they are adding significantly to delays and costs.

“Sanctions are already beginning to bite, creating significant problems where ships are inspected or impounded

“There are wild fluctuations in the prices of commodities like fuel and food and we predict significant price increases as the conflict continues.

“We’re predicting a ripple effect as delays in Eastern Europe start to cause issues in ports in China and the US, already under pressure from Covid-19, weather events and other factors.”

Sea routes in and out of Odessa and other ports on the Black Sea have essentially stopped. At least two commercial vessels have been hit by military action and most international carriers have evacuated the region.

Maersk said on 24 February that it had halted all port calls in Ukraine and has shut its main office in Odessa on the Black Sea coast.

Most other lines have followed suit.

Insurers have raised the cost of providing cover for merchant ships through the Black Sea, adding to soaring rates through the region.

International Maritime Organisation (IMO) secretary general Kitack Lim is worried about the impact on shipping, in particular the effect on the delivery of commodities and food to developing nations and on energy supplies.

There is still some movement by rail but large numbers of refugees are putting pressure on routes through Belarus and Poland and services are badly affected.

Rail freight between Slovakia and Ukraine have been suspended although Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) freight subsidiary Rail Cargo Group was claiming on 24 February that there was no impact on services. German Rail (DB) said that its operations in the Ukraine have been paused, and staff have been asked to stay at home.

Trains are now being rerouted away from Ukraine, but rail freight experts are currently optimistic that disruptions can be kept to a minimum. However, countries like Lithuania are expecting to see their rail traffic severely affected by sanctions against Russia.

Ukraine closed its airspace after Russian troops attacked the airports, and flights from Moscow and elsewhere have rerouted around the region.

Tit-for-tat sanction measures have seen many western airlines banned from Russia, while Russian planes are excluded from Western European airspace.

British airlines have been banned from landing at Russia’s airports and from crossing its airspace, the Russian civil aviation regulator has said.

Russia said the move was a response to “the unfriendly decisions by the UK aviation authorities”.

The EU has imposed a blanket flight ban on Russian planes.

Virgin Atlantic said avoiding Russia would add between 15 minutes and an hour to its flights between the UK and India and Pakistan. Australian airline Qantas said it would use a longer route for its direct flight between Darwin and London so that it does not overfly Russia.

Industry is already seeing shortages in materials and key components and this situation is likely only to get worse. Wiring looms for Volkswagen vehicles come from a Ukrainian supplier and are currently disrupted. VW confirmed that its Zwickau plant in east Germany would be idle for four days as a result while the nearby Dresden plant will be closed for three days.

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