The Odesa region’s Governor Mikheil Saakashvili has said that the Ukrzaliznytsia public railway company’s two ferries that are idling for a second year in the Chornomorsk port could have been repaired in a couple of weeks.
"There is an egregious case of sabotage in our ports. While Russia has blocked our loads and we have found an alternative transport route through the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea to Central Asia and China, the issue of transport capacities has become acute. For the second year, two super-ferries belonging to Ukrainian railways are idling in the Chornomorsk port for a second year. Officially, this is due to lack of ‘technical repair.’ This repair could have been completed within a couple of weeks and it costs less than the ferries would have earned on a single trip," Saakashvili wrote on his Facebook page.
According to him, he believes that this could be proof of negligence by officials and actions in favor of competitors. "In addition to the possible case of idiocy, I have a more realistic explanation for this. The ferry service is currently operated by a monopoly, keeps prices high in the absence of competition and probably protected by someone in the ministry in Kyiv to ensure that nothing threatens this monopoly," Saakashvili said.
As previously reported, Ukrzaliznytsia board member Marek Zalesny recently spoke about the fate of these ferries. According to him, he was informed that the ferries were in such a poor condition that they were only good for scrapping, but he found that this was untrue when he visited Odesa. “I was convinced that these vessels are still good and that they have fantastic equipment for both rail and road transport. We also had ferries at PKP Cargo. However, they were less functional. Yet, they generated profits for the company," Zalesny said in an interview with the Magistral newspaper. According to Zalesny, the ferries should resume operation and go out to sea in early 2017.
Ukrzaliznytsia’s Board Chairman Wojciech Balczun also believes that the ferries on the books of Ukrzaliznytsia can be put back into service sufficiently quickly.
As reported, Ukrzaliznytsia recovered these ferries from the Ukrferry company, which leased them.
Under the agreement on rail and ferry services between the ports of Varna (Bulgaria), Poti/Batumi (Georgia), and the Black Sea that was signed in 2000, the Bulgarian Maritime Fleet shipping line and the Ukrainian shipping company Ukrferry were designated as the carriers on this route. However, the abovementioned agreement also stipulates that the route can also be served by Ukrzaliznytsia. Therefore, Ukrzaliznytsia may also enter the ferry market following the return of the ferries previously leased to Ukrferry. However, Ukraine and Georgia recently signed a new agreement that makes no provision for designated carriers. This new document still requires parliamentary ratification before it can come into effect.