Brussels aims to circumvent Moscow's blockade of Ukrainian ports

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By Aida Sanchez Alonso
A freight train with fodder maize, arriving from the Ukraine arrives in Vienna, Austria, Friday, May 6, 2022.
A freight train with fodder maize, arriving from the Ukraine arrives in Vienna, Austria, Friday, May 6, 2022.   -  Copyright  Theresa Wey/The Associated Press

Brussels is working to find solutions to end Russia's ability to block Ukraine's capacity to export goods.

Kyiv is Europe's biggest grain producer and one of the main suppliers to the Middle East and Africa. But Moscow's naval blockade of the Black Sea is making it nearly impossible to export all these goods across the sea.

The European Commission wants to circumvent this by asking key market players to urgently send lorries and trains that can help reduce the waiting time at the border, which is currently at an average of 16 days with a wait of 30 days at some borders.

It's also asking member states to be as flexible as possible when it comes border crossings, as well as asking to temporarily store Ukrainian grain, for example, within EU countries. 

Adina Valean, the European Commissioner for Transport, acknowledged that it will not be an easy task finding solutions to the problem.

"If we know that Ukraine would need to get out 20 million tonnes of grain in three months and by calculating how much can be transported by a wagon or a barge, well, you would end up with numbers like 10,000 wagons and barges to accept this amount in three months," Valean told Euronews.

"So, it is really challenging because we need to increase the capacity, the numbers, the efficiency of the operations to make it possible that much more wagons and barges are used to transport this grains."

The Black Sea and Sea of Azov are filled with Russian ships, which means that even if the port of Odessa and Mikolayiv are still under control of Ukrainian forces the ships cannot leave.

Ukraine's ambassador to the EU, Vsevolod Chentsov, told Euronews that the blockade poses a serious risk to global food security.

"It is definitely a risk for food security. And one of the main points during this visit of Charles Michel (president of the European Council), to Odessa, was to show that it is Russia blocking Ukrainian exports," Chentsov said. "It's not Ukraine unwilling to bring food to the markets. And that's why we are looking for alternative routes."

Ukraine's railroad infrastructure is not compatible with most of Europe's system, making the task even more difficult, but the loss of grain supply in the long-term could be disastrous for prices all over the world.