Infrastructure Minister Andrii Pyvovarskyi, Deputy Infrastructure Minister Yurii Vaskov, the Administration of Seaports of Ukraine’s head Andrii Amelin, and a group of journalists are traveling in a tugboat through the port’s waters in the direction of the TIS-Ore terminal. An impromptu meeting is taking place right on the tugboat, with the Administration of Seaports of Ukraine’s head Maksym Shirokov delivering a report to the minister on current and future investment projects. At the same time, he is presenting a plan for future development of the port.
Journalists spread out over the deck in search of beautiful shots: sunshine and a light breeze favor this. Huge ships from around the world are berthed at the grain, coal, and container terminals for loading operations. It can be seen that stevedores in the port are working actively. By the way, the Yuzhny port is now the largest port in the country in terms of cargo traffic. At the same time, most of the cargo is handled in private terminals of the TIS group. The port specializes in bulk cargo (mainly coal, ore, and grain).
The beautiful MSC Carina bulk carrier is moored at the ore complex. It flies the Panamanian flag, but its crew is composed mostly of Indians. The vessel arrived at the Yuzhny port to take aboard 120,000 tons of ore before heading to Rotterdam.
We climb aboard in small groups: as sailors later explained, the stairs normally support no more than six people. The vessel’s senior assistant captain Avik Sarkel agrees to answer questions. The Ukrainian minister acts simultaneously as the moderator of the conversation and the English translator for journalists. It immediately becomes clear that the sailors are impressed with the new regulatory procedures at the port.
“There was nothing like this here before. The entire procedure was completed within 40 minutes. Previously, it took least three hours to complete,” says the ship’s first mate. According to him, representatives of only two services - border guards, who checked passports, and quarantine workers (they were required to inspect the ship because it came from a geographically disadvantaged area, Pyvovarskyi clarifies immediately) - boarded the ship.
Avik Sarkel says that he visits Ukrainian ports about once every four months and that the main difference from previous inspections is the amount of time that is saved.
“It is necessary to understand that the ship loses money for every hour it spends in a port. What happened today is consistent with international practice, and it is even more efficient in terms of the time it took: it takes about one hour to go through these procedures in other ports around the world,” he adds.
Deputy Infrastructure Minister Yurii Vaskov stressed to journalists that loss of time and money is undesirable for all parties, including the port. Therefore, the vessel did not idle even during these forty minutes: the necessary cargo operations were being performed.
We then enter the port’s control room, where we familiarize ourselves with the operation of the Port Community Information System (PCIF) and the particulars of reception of ships in the Free Practice mode. This allows ships to be processed in the port even before it actually enters the port, simplification of regulatory procedures, and commencement of loading operations immediately after berthing.
“Here, we see a list of ship calls, with obligatory indication of the ship’s approximate approach date,” the Yuzhny port authority’s chief dispatcher Oleksandr Kovaliuk explains, pointing to the screen. “The main control room compiles and updates it around the clock on the basis of information submitted by agents. Twenty-four hours before a vessel arrives, the agent submits documents into the system for consideration by the regulatory authorities.”
Free Practice and the Port Community Information System were launched in ports much earlier, but it is the simplification of regulatory procedures that facilitates the creation of a single "chain" that works. After all, the previously bureaucratized and unwieldy inspection of vessels by commission could negate all the advantages gained from electronic document management.
“During these 24 hours, a ship is given the ‘green light’ if there are no questions to it. In accordance with the decree No. 491, only guards board a ship to check passports upon its arrival at the port. If the regulatory bodies have any issues, agents have those same 24 hours to resolve them. A commission boards the ship if these issues are not resolved within this period. However, the essence of the decree is that documents should be submitted in electronic form and examined within 24 hours before the arrival of a ship and for it to receive the ‘green light,’" said Olena Hiriaeva, the spokesperson for the Administration of Seaports of Ukraine.
The Ministry of Infrastructure expects the level of corruption in the sector to reduce and the competitiveness of Ukrainian ports to increase. The head of the transport agency stresses that not all the necessary steps have been taken and that there is still a long way to go, but “the neighboring departments and even parliamentary deputies should now be taken as satellites."
“We still have room for further deregulatory steps, which can further simplify the operations of port businesses and ship owners and generally restore the world’s trust in the Ukrainian port industry,” says Pyvovarskyi. “However, we have to take these steps together with our counterparts in other ministries – the environment and agriculture ministries. We can do some of it through Cabinet of Ministers resolutions and ministerial orders. That is 75-80 percent of the way. However, in order to introduce the common world practice in this area, it is necessary to amend the legislation. The parliament, particularly its transport committee, supports us in this.”