Snake Island liberation could solve Odesa’s transport collapse

(Credit: Tetiana Bezhenar)

The liberation of Snake Island from Russian forces on 30 June has allowed the opening of the Ukrainian side of the Danube’s mouth and the use of the Bystroye Canal, which connects the Danube to the Black Sea. Ship traffic has been redirected through the passage, located 36 kilometres from the recently freed island. 

While trading companies eagerly wait for the reopening of “Big Odesa” - ports in the cities of Odesa region, Chornomorsk and Yuzhne - the current passage allows speedy export  of Ukrainian goods, including agricultural products.

The newly opened passage also shortens the wait time of trucks at the country’s borders. Due to Russia's remaining blockade of the Black Sea ports and the shelling of a strategic railway bridge in Zatoka, truck drivers have to go through detours. While hundreds of vehicles drive daily along the Odesa-Reni highway to the checkpoints on the border with Romania and Moldova, they are forced to queue, sometimes for several days. The transport infrastructure south of the Odesa region cannot withstand such traffic.

In some places, this situation creates additional problems for farmers, who are in the midst of harvest. Their agricultural vehicles can’t cross from one field to another, because the land plots are divided by a highway, on which heavy trucks queue.

“For several weeks in a row, almost five thousand trucks a day waited on both sides of the roads for their turn to cross the border. Now the number has gone down to about 700 trucks per day thanks to the increase in the processing of heavy cargo transport in the port of Reni”, said Ihor Plekhov the head of the Reni United Territorial Community.

(Credit: Tetiana Bezhenar)

However, since the Ukrainian ports of Reni and Izmail on the Danube are overloaded, the Romanian side does not have enough time and equipment to unload grain. Ukrainian drivers also complain about bureaucracy.

“Over the past few days, the situation has started to improve and the movement of cars has accelerated, but sometimes you have to wait up to two weeks to unload at the port. And all because of the fact that on the Romanian side processing documents takes a long time”, said truck driver Serhii Horodetskyi who transports grains.

The administration of the Odesa region began to create special parking lots of up to 5 hectares for heavy vehicles. Two of them are already being used, in particular, in the settlement of Orlivka.  Today, the Odesa-Reni highway is almost free of traffic congestion.

“Four parking lots are currently under construction, and according to the project, there will be seven of them. We are considering other checkpoints, such as Tabaki-Mirne. We appealed to the sanitary-epidemiological service in Izmail to open an additional laboratory for us,” said Oleksandr Hayduk, director of the Department of Transport Infrastructure of the Odesa Regional State Military Administration.

In addition, an electronic queue, through which each driver will be able to predict his arrival at the parking lot, is planned. But the situation remains tense.

“According to the schedule, I should already be in Mykolaiv, but due to the large flow of transport and traffic jams, I’m only in Odesa. Apart from the logistical issues, we are constantly risking our own lives, because there is nowhere to hide, even during air raids. And I am in a hurry to deliver fuel to gas stations, because the work of other enterprises depends on it, so there is no time for delays, said Ihor Kolisnichenko who drives fuel trucks. It is difficult, but in wartime there is no choice. This is my job and I must do it to bring us closer to our victory”

Since the beginning of the war, many young truck drivers have joined the ranks of the Territorial Defense and the Armed Forces. Older people stayed behind and continue to transport cargo. Each of them holds on to the job they have, as unemployment rates in the country are increasing every day.