Ukraine-Russia war impact on rail freight

03.03.2022

On Thursday 24 February, Russian military forces launched attacks on multiple fronts in Ukraine, among others the cities Kramatorsk, Charkov, Odessa en Kiev. Some of these regions play an important role on the New Silk Road. In this blog, we keep track of all rail freight related news in relation to the war in Ukraine.

The EU updated its sanctions on Russia this morning stating the following:

EU’s agreed sanction package includes:

sanctions against the 351 members of the Russian State Duma (parliament’s lower house), who voted on 15 February in favour of the appeal to President Putin to recognise the independence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk «republics» sanctions against an additional 27 individuals and entities who have contributed to the undermining or threatening of the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine restrictions on economic relations with the non-government controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts restrictions on the ability of the Russian state and government to access the EU’s capital and financial markets and services 13.00 — HHLA held a press conference at 12.00 to announce that the port of Odessa was closed today by the Ukrainian authorities, and therefore operations at the HHLA terminal in Odessa have also been suspended. «Except for the security staff, all employees are now at home. Their safety is our highest priority», the operator says.

12.16 — Chinese companies have also provided their input regarding the Ukraine-Russia situation and the continuation of New Silk Road services. The direct train from China to Kiev is still up and running, however, the service between Xi’an and the Ukrainian city of Chop will be rerouted temporarily through Poland. Read the full article about the reaction of Chinese companies here.

12.05 — «Lithuanian logistics companies are facing a hard day due to the situation in Ukraine,» informed RailFreight.com Tomas Jankauskas from ACE Logistics. Transit to and from China is not disturbed yet. However, the industry fears delays on the Belarusian part of the Silk Road. This is because Belarusian Railways might prioritise the transport of military equipment over containers.

On another note, the Lithuanian government has already declared the country in a state of emergency. Jankauskas mentioned that «based on the EU sanctions that are currently prepared, we could see rail traffic between Lithuania and Russia heavily disturbed since European leaders are working on a full ban on Russia».

11.20 — Although trains can technically continue to run, it seems that sanctions eventually affect the rail freight industry in real terms. The EU today proposed a package of massive and targeted sanctions, to European leaders for approval. With this package, it will target strategic sectors of the Russian economy by blocking their access to technologies and markets that are key for Russia.

11.15 — In response to a query from RailFreight.com, UTLC ERA says that non of its services has been impacted. UTLC ERA operates the majority of the rail freight services on the broad gauge network, including Kazakhstan, Belarus and Russia.

11.05 — According to Metrans, rail freight services through Ukraine have been paused since January, when instability in the region started. «At least our customers have all cancelled their shipments through Ukraine. In the end, it is the decision of the customer, and most are currently not OK with the transit through Ukraine.»

But, Koubek explains, it is not only about Ukraine. «There have already been customers with headquarters in the US as well as the EU that are now refusing to transit through Russia, and therefore refusing to use the train. This is likely to have a much bigger impact on rail freight traffic on the New Silk Road.»

10.55 — Lithuania and Moldova are also ready to declare a state of emergency.

10.38 — RTSB confirms that customers have cancelled their bookings on trains via Ukraine. No trains transit through this region at the moment, according to the operator on the New Silk Road. Trains are redirected via Belarus and Kaliningrad. Rail freight traffic still runs through these border crossings, says Aleksander Baskakov, CEO RTSB Russia.

10.25 — According to RZD Logistics, there is currently not much of an impact yet. But as the situation is volatile, this can change by the day, says Yulia Kosolopova. «Yesterday evening, the situation was completely different from today, and maybe tonight I will give a different update. But at this moment, freight trains are running. However, people are worried, and train redirections could be a result of that.»

10.05 — Hungary seems to be one of the countries bearing the brunt of the war. According to Jakub Walcak from C.H. Robinson, trains to Budapest that run through Ukraine will be redirected via Malaszewicze, starting today.

This was also confirmed by the platform company in Xi’an, which announced on Wednesday that it had redirected its Chop-Budapest train to Mala-Budapest for the time being.

10.00 — The Ukrainian Railways have entered the emergency operation mode and coordinate all actions through their operational headquarters in collaboration with the government. The operational headquarters were established to ensure the continuation of services under the unique conditions of a war zone — a status that Ukraine seems to have acquired since the early morning of 24 February.

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