Oleksandr Tkachuk: Specialised Grain Container Turns Out to be a Temporary Tool


The development of container transportation during the full-scale invasion was discussed with Oleksandr Tkachuk, Director of Levada Cargo container terminals network development (part of Lemtrans Group).

“What is the current percentage of cargo containerisation covered by railway transport in Ukraine?”
“The decrease in the volume of railway freight transportation also led to the decrease in container transportation. In 2022, the share of railway cargo containerisation was approximately 2% of all freight traffic.”

“How would you characterise the existing network of container terminals on the territory of Ukraine? How extensive, accessible and high-quality is it? Does the current network allow increasing the volume of container transportation and attracting new cargoes? Is it necessary to first develop a network of container terminals for this?”
“In Ukraine, the container network developed mainly in the Black Sea ports. Even the latest projects of UZ (Ukrainian Railways) (Lisky) were related to the combination of cargo flow between the Black and Baltic Seas. The quality of the terminals and network is characterised by the availability of appropriate equipment (cranes, reach stackers, loaders, etc.), which would allow for quick processing and stacking of containers. If we compare the degree of container networks development in the EU and Ukraine, our country is at the initial nascent development stage of container network and the relevant terminals, but in recent years, market participants have increasingly invested in the development of transshipment facilities. Accordingly, in 2022, Lemtrans Group, which includes Levada Cargo, and its partner launched the Mostyska Cargo Terminal (CTM) on the Ukraine-Poland border.”

“In early August this year, Ukrzaliznytsia (Ukrainian Railways) announced the creation of a terminal operator that will manage 21 terminals. How will it influence the development of container transportation?”
“The main question is what UZ means by the concept of a terminal. Today, these are the so-called freight yards at large stations, which theoretically can work with unit loads, or stack containers, for example. However, the main issue is the availability of appropriate equipment, coordination of cargo flows, connections with ports and lines. Without significant investment in container infrastructure, UZ won’t be able to play a key role in container transportation (especially after the railway system liberalisation).”

“What was the cargo containerisation like before the outbreak of the full-scale invasion and what changed after February 2022?”
The positive trend of container transportation reached a dead end. After the full-scale invasion, the vector of cargo container flow changed, primarily in the direction of the western crossings. Today, Gdańsk has become the main hub for Ukrainian cargo transported in containers for export and import.”

“How did the war affect the logistics of container cargo? What alternative ways of exporting and importing goods in containers from/to Ukraine are available today?”
“Definitely, the way to the port has become longer, since containers are mainly about the sea. The cargo base has also changed, today it is mainly ferrous metals, grain, oil crops, seed meal. Today, there are available routes to Gdańsk, Rotterdam, Hamburg through land container terminals on the western crossings.”

“What rate of cargo containerisation should we strive for in your opinion?”
“It will depend on the cargo base, that is, the product that will be made in Ukraine. A container is about a product with significant added value. The more this product is available, the higher the percentage of containerisation will be.”

“Do we need to change the law to improve the conditions for the development of container transportation in Ukraine?”
“In the EU, container trains are provided by private operators and railway. Liberalisation of Ukraine’s railway system will improve the conditions for the development of any transportation.”

“What are the main obstacles in the development of container transportation in Ukraine?”
“First of all, the war and related challenges: Sea blockade, decrease in production volumes, lack of foreign investment. Infrastructural restrictions at border crossings, car queues, lack of timetables for container trains, border control (phytosanitary, customs one), etc., also play a key role. That is, a combination of general chronic problems and war-related issues.”

“Currently, one of the main issues being discussed is the transportation of grain for export. How can the development of container transportation help address this problem?”
“In 2022, the transportation of grain in containers was a common phenomenon. Primarily, on the wave of panic. Currently, we do not observe a high share of grain container transportation volumes. Now, it is a niche story, i.e. barley, seed meal, oil (bars) are transported in containers today.”

“What containers are mainly used to export grain: specialised or universal ones?”
“Universal ones, because niche grain crops go to China. Mainland transportation is provided by hoppers and cars. Specialised containers turned out to be a temporary tool.”

“Are there enough fitting platforms on the Ukrainian market? What are the most in-demand platforms?”
“The issue of platform adequacy is regulated by Ukrzaliznytsia. If the turnover rate increases, accordingly, it causes a deficit. However, on the territory of Ukraine semi-wagons are actively used to transport containers, so this story is dynamic.”

“In your opinion, what share of grain export shipments can be containerised?”
“Container grain transportation is a temporary measure. Of course, the transportation of high-value agricultural products (seeds, cereals, flour, sugar, etc.) in containers will increase. And we believe that this will happen in the near future. Levada Cargo is ready for these trends in the market and can already offer customers its own fleet of bulk and tank containers to ensure sustainable logistics of these cargoes given current circumstances.”

“What are the prospects for the development of your company in the area of container transportation?”
At Levada Cargo, we bet on the development of Ukraine, the growth of its economy and trade. Our main idea is to support this growth through the promotion of Ukrainian products around the world. We are already investing and creating a network of terminals around Ukraine, which will allow us to become a starting point for Ukrainian products. We are going to connect our network with Ukrainian and European ports through railway network and, accordingly, our border terminals in Lviv and Zakarpattia Regions.

Subscribe to news

Stay informed