Will Belarus become sea power?

Once our ancestors lived in the country from sea to sea. From the Baltic sea to the Black one. Even though modern Belarus cannot boast of access to big water, the sea can at least get closer. To get access to it, the authorities want to use our river potential. After all, we have more than 20 thousand rivers.

Now the authorities are thinking whether to build a port on the Dnieper near the village of Nizhniya Zhary in the Homiel region. It is planned to use ships there for entry into the Black Sea, there is talk about attracting the Turkish company Derin Shipping & Trading Co. to the project.

“This is one of those projects that the Ukrainian side, after a long pause, offered the Belarusian side in 2016. After that, Minsk held consultations on the construction of a terminal in the Homiel region. Then we had our first talks with the Turks last summer about the theoretical possibility of delivering goods across the Dnieper, and today we are negotiating with the Republic of Turkey the construction of a terminal,” says Ihar Tyshkevich, Ukrainian Institute of the Future.

However, not everything is so optimistic. Ecologists talk about the threat from shipping for a unique Palesse ecosystem. From an economic point of view, the situation is complicated, because the village of Nizhniya Zhary has no infrastructure for large-scale freight traffic.

“In order to integrate this port into the system of the Belarusian Railways, it is necessary to build a new railway line about 100 kilometers in length, to Khoiniki. The cost of such a project, even after a rough estimate, is no less than $ 100 million. No one has even talked seriously about this yet,” explains Alyaksandr Herasimenka, Deputy Chief Editor of the ‘Belarusians and the Market’ newspaper.

And this is not the only investment needed. According to experts, at the moment the project looks quite risky, since the construction of the port under the Nizhniya Zhary will require a lot of work — first of all, to put the channel in order and create depth for the movement of “river-sea” ships.

It is planned that the main cargo turnover of the port should be provided by the Mazyr Oil Refinery and PetrykauMining and Processing Plant. Experts say that for almost three years the Mazyr Oil Refinery has been partially sending its products by river transport to Ukrainian consumers.

“If we talk about potash salts, then the main consumers are India and China. And now just look at the map and think about where it is easier and faster: through the Suez Canal from Odessa, or from the Baltic. Accordingly, this is beneficial for Belarus, and Ukraine ties Belarus to itself, it becomes a country Belarus needs,” Ihar Tyshkevich, Ukrainian Institute of the Future, commented on the situation.

According to experts, the Belarusian authorities can take advantage of the project in the political plane: to create a pressure point on Lithuania, which takes a large flow of Belarusian goods, as well as strengthen relations with Ukraine and Turkey. However, so far, the dividends from the construction of the port on the Dnieper have been only hypothetical.

Zmitser Mitskevich, belsat.eu

Photo: Joko / Arco Images / FORUM

See also