Lukashenko and Zelensky discuss the death of Polesie

The heads of the two states agreed on cooperation to build the E40 waterway in Zhytomyr as part of the Second Forum of the Regions of Ukraine and Belarus.

The idea of creating a new transport corridor with the building of a port terminal in the village of Nizhniya Zhary, Bragin District, to transport goods from Belarus by water to the ports of the Black, Mediterranean and Caspian Seas, has been considered at various levels over the past 8 years. The other day, it also became one of the priorities of the Ukraine National Transport Strategy 2030, and last Friday it was announced by the leaders of Belarus and Ukraine at a meeting in Zhytomyr on October 4.

What exactly did the presidents agree on with the E40?

Alexander Lukashenko pointed out that Belarus has done everything to implement the project, and now it is waiting for Ukraine to act.

«We have committed ourselves to certain actions, now it`s up to Ukraine,» said the leader.

— «It is necessary to deepen the bottom so that river-sea vessels can run everywhere along the Dnieper. We have also got private investment for the creation of the port in Nizhniya Zhary. The port is ready to take ships. If we see that Ukraine is interested, we will build a port and solve all issues at the highest level» A. Lukashenko addressed to Zelensky.

Putting the waterway into service would be a «serious stimulus» in the development of bilateral relations, Lukashenko is sure. He draws attention to the fact that «we have excellent logistics with the Baltic. We could have launched cargo flows from the north along the river into the Black Sea». «Minsk is also ready to increase the volume of supplies of oil products to Ukraine,» according to the president.

— «There are prospects for logistics: there will be a transit for Ukraine and Belarus and new jobs. We will be depending on each other more, so why shouldn`t we deal with that?» — summed up Alexander Grigoryevich.

Zelensky pointed out that commercial contracts of $ 500 million were signed at the forum:

— «We greatly appreciate the fact that Ukraine and Belarus have established close trade cooperation and restored the volume of trade,» he said.

The plans for this year counts for at least eight billion dollars.

An investment agreement for the construction of the port in September 2019 for $ 64 million was signed with a Turkish businessman. The project is planned to be completed by 2025. The deepening of Pripyat by the fairway in the area between the port and the Kyiv reservoir is supposed. The plan of E40 waterway along the route Gdansk — Warsaw — Brest — Pinsk — Mozyr –— Kyiv — Kherson has existed on paper since 1996. Its development is opposed by several environmental organizations from Belarus, Ukraine, Poland and all of Europe, together with the NGO «Bahna». Creation of a route will require straightening the channel and the building of hydraulic structures that will destroy the unique ecosystem of the Pripyat, Western Bug, Vistula and Dnieper rivers. For Ukraine, the danger includes radioactive contamination, which will be caused by dredging.

Ukraine promises to deepen the bottom of Pripyat by May 1 of next year

A day earlier, on October 3, the Minister of Transport and Communications of Belarus Alexey Avramenko and the Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine Vladislav Krikli held a separate meeting on the development of shipping within the E40. The Ukrainian and Belarusian side pledged to carry out dredging in Pripyat at their sites to the city of Mozyr by spring 2020.

«Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority» (AMPU) represented by Deputy Head Dmitry Romensky and General Director of «Beltopenergo» CJSC Vasily Varfolomeev last year signed a memorandum providing for the restoration of river navigation between Ukraine and Belarus. The signing ceremony was attended by Deputy Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine for European Integration Viktor Dovgan and Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications of Belarus Alexey Lyakhnovich.

We would like to note that OAO «Belport Nizhniya Zhary» was registered in April last year. Vasily Varfolomeev is one of the owners of the «Hippo» network.

—«We would like very much that the river route, about which so much has already been said, finally start working. I know that the head of our state will stipulate that tomorrow. The restoration of the navigation on the river is a good tradition, and it is necessary to return it. It’s technically not difficult for the Ukrainian side to carry out all the necessary work on the river,» said Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Igor Lyashenko at a meeting of regional leaders. —«According to experts, dredging works on the Ukrainian side for 200 000 cubic meters are required. To complete this, you need an order of the President or the Prime Minister of Ukraine

Gennady Solovei, Chairman of the Gomel Oblast Executive Committee, noted the region’s high interest in the project. «This will significantly increase the volume of export and import cargo flows» — he said.

The Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine emphasized that a feasibility study will be carried out on their part and environmental impact issues will be considered:

— We understand that the best results will be achieved if river communication in three countries — Ukraine, Belarus and Poland — starts its working. Then we can ensure communication between the Baltic and Black Seas, and the situation on transport routes will change dramatically.

In spring, a joint commission of representatives of the «Dredging Fleet Branch of the State Company «Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority» (AMPU) and the Branch «Nizhne-Pripyatsky» of the Ruesp «Dnepro-Bugskiy Vodnyy Put» inspected the river shipping route from the city of Mozyr (Belarus) to the mouth of the Pripyat River (Ukraine) with a length of 188 kilometers.

The estimated amount of soil to be extracted is 1.2 million cubic meters.

To carry out the work, the Ukrainian side planned to involve AMPU, as well as contracting companies. The Belarusian side intended to use its fleet of «Dneprobugvodput». Earlier, the topic of freight traffic along the Dnieper was repeatedly discussed at various levels during the Belarusian and Ukrainian meetings. In autumn of 2017, the leaders of the Gomel and Kherson regions, as well as JV NIBULON LLC, signed a tripartite memorandum of cooperation and partnership to implement a project to restore shipping along the Dnieper.

This summer, the AMPU tried to add the Ukrainian-Belarusian section on the Dnieper to the UNECE «Blue Book», when, as part of the Ukrainian delegation, they participated in the 55th session of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) Working Party on the unification of technical and safety requirements for inland waterways held at the end of June in Geneva (Swiss Confederation). The delegates considered the need to amend the List of Main Characteristics and Parameters of the Category E Waterway Network («Blue Book»).

At the initiative of the Ukrainian delegation, they discussed the settlement of the issue of correctly displaying the «Blue Book» data in the following areas:

  • section of the Pripyat River from the border between the Republic of Belarus and Ukraine to the mouth (class IV) – the draught of 1.2 m;
  • section of the Dnieper River from the mouth of Pripyat to Kyiv (class Va) – the draught of 2.2 m;
  • section of the Dnieper River (class Vb) from Kyiv to Kherson – the draught of 3.2 m.

Experts noted that the «Blue Book» should reflect the maximum draught of the vessels, but not the guaranteed depths on the sections of the waterway, which are erroneously reflected on the indicated sections in the current edition.

Preparatory work in Ukraine is still hampered by the absence of a new law on inland water transport. After the appointment of a new government, the president instructed the parliament and the government to approve the law by November 1.

Who will build the port in Nizhniya Zhary?

The idea of building a port on the border with Ukraine on the deepwater section of the Dnieper River for loading vessels of a mixed sailing class has been hatched by the Belarusian government since at least 2011. And E40 is an important waterway since 1997 in the European Agreement on the most important inland waterways of international importance, signed by the Russian government.

In recent years, special attention has been paid to cooperation in the banking sector, namely the creation of a banking structure in Belarus with the participation of capital from Turkey, as well as the possibility of mutual settlements in national currencies.

The Turkish company «TDMR DYSH Tijaret Textile Sanayi» signed an investment agreement in November 2011 for the construction of a port in Nizhniya Zhary and has already shipped the first diesel tanker from Mozyr. Mozyr Oil Refinery has its berthing facilities and without any intermediate links and intermediaries, very cheaply, it can ship its products directly to the buyer’s vessels. This was honestly confirmed by the Deputy Head of the Department of Sea and River Transport of the Ministry of Transport and Communications of Belarus Andrei Chernobylets. What happened next with the Turkish company and its investment agreement is unknown.

The next round with the project of the port in Nizhniya Zhary took place from 2017 to 2018. And also with Turkey: as many as 3 companies analysed the issue. But the agreement is still not signed.

In future, this port can become a major transit hub connecting the eastern and western parts of the new Silk Road from China to Europe, the embassy said.

The implementation of this project may create new opportunities for Belarus in organizing export and import deliveries of goods, improve the logistics, provide additional foreign exchange earnings to the budget, create new jobs and, in general, contribute to the growth of competitiveness of Belarusian companies.

*«We are ready to start the implementation of the project if there will be the guarantee of cargo provision from the Belarusian side,» * Erkim Yıldırım, Chairman of the Board of «Derin Shipping & Trading Co Group of Companies», said last year.

In his opinion, only one Belaruskali project implemented at the Petrikovsky field is capable of ensuring cost-effective operation of the port. However, for a year there has been no news from the investor.

In the Bragin district, town-planning passports for three land plots have been prepared: for the construction of a multimodal hub, a marina for a yacht club and a recreation centre in the village of Nizhniya Zhary with an area of 249.65 hectares. Another one is allocated for the construction and maintenance of the river port, engineering and transport infrastructure to it in the village of Nizhniya Zhary with an area of 68.07 hectares. In the village of Verkhniya Zhary on an area of 41 hectares, the construction and maintenance of the infrastructure of the deep seaport are planned. It is assumed that cargo will be delivered to the port by containers, and further along the river to Ukraine up to the Black Sea. In the future, they plan to build a railway from the port to Khoiniki. This could cost an additional $ 100 million.

Ministry of Transport within the development of the E40 economy

The Ministry of Transport and Communications knows best the details of this ambitious project. Deputy Minister Natalya Alexandrovich has a very specific opinion on the E40 project о проекте Е40:

— Everything is quite simple: Belarus is an intracontinental state and has no direct access to the sea. For transit through its territory, there are good perspectives such as numerous lines of transport corridors pass through our country, and today a lot is being done for their development. At the same time, the volume of our foreign trade cargo transported by sea annually amounts to about 30 million tons. And the absence of the sea coast, in this case, is a significant minus.

Many product items are significant for the country, it is important to ensure the uninterrupted supply. Do not forget the fact that for the transportation of its products, our country uses the services of states that have seaports, and payment for the services provided can be up to 20% of the value of the goods. Belarus is a country with an open economy, exporting products for our enterprises has always been a priority. To compete in the global market, we must offer products with the best value for money. Therefore, the reduction of the transport component in the final cost of production is very important. So, no one has removed the search for alternative transport corridors from the agenda.

Indeed, today the main foreign trade volume of products is transported through the Baltic ports. As an alternative, the port of Ust-Luga, located near St. Petersburg, can be considered.

The Black Sea direction is less involved. And this is due to both objective and subjective reasons. However, this direction is the shortest path to many of our traditional markets. And in this context, the construction of port infrastructure in the area of the village of Nizhniya Zhary is relevant. Surely, it is an opportunity to serve part of the cargo flow with our port infrastructure, which provides river and sea ship handling.

Also, the contribution of water transport to the economy does not match the potential of this sector. Now its share in total freight turnover is only about 1%. Moreover, according to studies, with the existing infrastructure, the share of inland water transport in total freight turnover should be 3%. A reorientation of 1% of the cargo turnover to water transport, among other effects, will reduce the energy intensity of GDP (for fuel) by $ 15 million.

Nizhniya Zhary is located on the banks of the Dnieper in the pinch-out area of the Kyiv hydroelectric station. This means that the water level here is almost constant and has only small seasonal fluctuations.

Shipping dimensions on the section from the Nizhniya Zhary to the Black Sea will allow the use of river and sea class vessels with a carrying capacity of up to 3 thousand tons.

Besides the fact that this will ensure the optimal delivery of goods to the Black Sea ports for their further transhipment to sea vessels, it will be possible to deliver goods from Belarus to the Black Sea countries as well as to the Mediterranean basin.

With the implementation of this scheme, Georgia will become much closer to us. Besides, it will be possible to deliver goods by water to certain regions of Russia.

Before the Dnieper goes to Ukraine, four large rivers flow into it such as the Sozh, Drut, Berezina and Pripyat. This means that it will be possible to deliver goods by water to the new port from almost all parts of the country. Among the other advantages of this particular site is the presence of power lines and an automobile road, the close location of the «Komarin» border crossing. The minus is that there is no railway connection, there are about 80 kilometres to the Khoiniki station.

We shall not forget about large companies located in the Gomel region such as Mozyr oil refinery (and this is the export of oil products). In the same region, «Belaruskali» is implementing its major investment project – the Petrikovsky GOK (this is already exporting potash fertilizers).

Raw materials for chemical production can go from Ukraine and through Ukraine upstream the Dnieper, potentially it is also transportation of slag, granulated oilseed meal, sunflower oil and grain.

The second component of the project, and at the moment the most important, is the provision of shipping conditions. The difficulty is that the port construction site is located near the border and the entire inland waterway to the Black Sea is located in Ukraine.

Measurements carried out jointly by the Belarusian and Ukrainian sides showed that dredging is necessary on the section from Nizhniya Zhary to the Kyiv hydroelectric station (80 km). Their volume is 400 thousand cubic meters.

Unfortunately, no constructive solution was found, and interim agreements are not being implemented. By the way, in Belarus issues of this volume of work are not even brought to the level of the Ministry of Transport, but are decided by authorized organizations. For comparison: this year alone on the Pripyat stretch of 180 kilometres from Mozyr to the border with Ukraine, we plan to carry out ongoing dredging in the amount of about 600 thousand cubic meters. Considering the mutual benefit of this project for both Belarus and Ukraine, I hope this issue will be resolved after the meeting of the heads of state at the Forum of Regions.

A very important component of the project is the performance by Belarus of state functions in the port. Since 2016, the country has become a member of the International Maritime Organization and is obliged to ensure the fulfilment of the functions of a port state, because ships flying various flags will enter the Nizhniya Zhary.

The necessary documents have already been prepared on the creation of a state administration, the authority of which will include the performance of these functions. The issue of coordination with interested is difficult. Belarus is not a maritime country in the direct sense of the word, therefore the need and the mechanism for performing certain functions in the field of water transport are difficult to understand.

There are 10 river ports in the water transport system of Belarus (Brest, Gomel, Mogilev, Vitebsk, Grodno, Bobruisk, Mikashevichi, Mozyr, Pinsk, Rechitsa), 4 waterway companies (Gomel, Pinsk, Mozyr, Bobruisk), 3 shipbuilding and ship repair organizations (Gomel, Pinsk, Rechitsa), as well as organizations for the design of ships, monitoring the technical condition of ships, ensuring safe shipping conditions and forwarding companies.

Briefly about the Ecocide of Polesie and the unprofitability of the project

Recall that immediately after the announcement of plans for the restoration of the E40 waterway

• about 50 non-governmental environmental organizations of Belarus, Poland and Ukraine launched the campaign # STOP_E40;

• later, Belarusian business associations (the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers named after Professor M. C. Kunyavsky, the Republican Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, the Belarusian Scientific and Industrial Association) repeatedly called on the government to abandon this project;

• assessments and studies developed by experts indicate the extreme loss-making of such a project and its undoubted inadmissibility for environmental legislation;

The waterway from the Polish Gdansk through Pripyat in Belarus and the entire Dnieper in Ukraine to Kherson is a project of a tremendous transformation of wildlife. The rectification of Pripyat will lead to the drainage and actual destruction of Polesye as a natural region.Also, the entire length of the path to Ukraine and 2/3 of its length in Belarus are the territory of the Emerald Network, approved at the Council of Europe level, and has international and national security status.

Violation of soil and bottom sediments in the Chernobyl exclusion zone will lead to the release of radionuclides buried there since the 1986 accident. It is impossible to implement this project without the risk of water contamination in the water supply of 2/3 of Ukrainian families and without violating the law.

It is interesting to note that this project is the first one that the “updated” leadership of the state of Ukraine has talked about. At the same time, the previous leadership of the Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine secretly engaged in its development, which signed a roadmap with the Belarusian side and gave the green light to this project.

Up-to-date information on the campaign against the E40 waterway project is available at You can watch a short video about the problem here.

Translation: Anna Ponomarenko

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