Ukraine and Belarus agree on dredging internal waterways

Aerial view on the terrain of Dnieper river and Kiev. Credit: Getty Images.

The national governments of Ukraine and Belarus have agreed to begin bottom dredging in the Dnieper and Pripyat rivers to establish a network of commercial water channels between the two countries.

The dredging is needed so that the river network would become available for the vessels of the river-sea class, said Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, speaking at a press conference in Minsk in late September. The construction of the commercial water channels would give a strong stimulus to the increase in trade turnover between Ukraine and Belarus, Lukashenko added.

Under the project, Belarus promised to finish dredging by 1 May 2020. The national government has already signed an agreement with some private investors to build a new port in the Nizhniye Zhary village to handle the cargo flow on the new route, Lukashenko said. The investment cost of the project is estimated at USD64 million.

The Dnieper-Pripyat waterway could become an important part of the future E40 water channel linking the Black and Baltic seas, according to Lukashenko.

The length of the waterway from the southern end in Kherson to the northern end in Gdansk is about 2,000 km, while the investment cost of the project is estimated to be about EUR12.7 billion, out of which EUR12 billion are due to be invested in the Polish part of the channel, Ukraine officials estimated earlier this year.

Pripyat is flowing eastward through southern Belarus through the cities of Pinsk and Mazyr and passes through the exclusion zone established around the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine.

Dnieper is passing through eastern Belarus and central Ukraine and historically was an important navigable waterway for the economy of Ukraine and was connected via the Dnieper-Bug Canal to other waterways in Europe.

Ukraine will invest UAH80 million (USD3.15 million) to secure the depth of Dnieper at 2.65 meters all the way through the route, commented Viktor Dovgan, a spokesperson for the Ukraine Infrastructure Ministry. The preliminary estimations showed that the cargo flow on the river would grow to 6 to 7 million tonnes per year during the first three years after the launching of the new waterway, Dovgan added.

The main types of cargo to be transported through the new waterways are oil, mineral fertilisers, and wood, he said. All those goods could be exported to the countries of the Black Sea basin, and the logistics costs are expected to be significantly lower, as compared with the inland transport network’s offer.

The main customers are expected to be local mining companies, including Belaruskali – the world’s second-biggest mineral fertilisers producer, according to Dovgan. Speaking at a press conference in Kiev on 25 October, Ukraine Infrastructure Minister Vladyslav Krykliy commented that with this project Belarus would technically get full-fledged access to the Black Sea.