Small port, great strengths
The Moldovan inland port of Giurgiulesti has a rather special feel to it. Our correspondent Josef Müller last visited it for the ITJ in 2014, reporting on 400,000 t of annual throughput. Now the 1 million t mark has been reached. Business in the compound is also growing.
A mere 460 m section of the river Danube forms part of Moldova’s border. That is enough to be home to Giurgiulesti, a small but efficient inland port, which is easily accessible by ocean-going and inland waterway vessel. The gateway is developing into a regional logistics hub with an effective presence in its hinterland, too.
Versatile in little space
The driving force behind the operation is German national Thomas Moser, who initiated, owns and operates the hub. The operational business is managed by Danube Logistics Holding, based in Amsterdam (Netherlands) and with Moser as CEO. Moser manages activities from Vienna (Austria) and Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. Mathias von Tucher has been in charge of the port on the Danube as managing director since the beginning of 2019.
The port of Giurgiulesti is not only located on the river Danube, but also on a 700 m stretch of the river Pruth, which flows from the Moldovan hinterland into the Danube and forms part of Moldova’s border with Romania. The gateway is advantageously located about 130 km inland from the Danube delta on the Black Sea, and is easily accessible by both shortsea and inland waterway vessels. This is a big bonus for Moldova, which isn’t much of a regional economic powerhouse. Moser told the ITJ that the hub “primarily handles exports and imports for the country; we don’t have any transit business.”
The gateway’s infrastructure enables it to handle all types of goods. It is also surrounded by a 55 ha business park, from which a number of firms operate. Moser has an option to develop another 65 ha. International corporations that want to establish a presence in the area can contact Danube Logistics, the manager added. He has a long-term agreement with the Moldovan government covering the entire area, and offers interested parties either rental or leasehold deals. The requisite operating facilities can be built by the company itself or by Danube Logistics. “It’s just a question of what we agree on.”
Moser started construction in the facility in 2005; 2018 saw the port handle 1 million t of bulk, breakbulk and boxes. This was a 12% improvement over the previous year, a highly respectable result to achieve in this centre at the edge of Europe. The facility exports mainly agricultural goods from Moldova to all parts of the world, including cereals, edible oils and wine. The latter is transported in tank containers by maritime ships across the Black Sea to the Romanian port of Constantza, where it is transferred to larger ships. The same applies to goods imported into Moldova.
Bulk cargo also arrives in Giurgiulesti on inland waterway barges from Constantza, on the Danube – Cernavoda canal. The international automotive industry has long discovered the country and manufactures sophisticated components there.
Beating the local competition
Moldova has an association agreement with the EU, which opens up promising prospects for the country. Once a week Danube Logistics operates a feeder service for containers across the Black Sea, from Giurgiulesti to Constantza. The route see about 6,000 teu handled a year, with an ongoing upward trend.
All this has been achieved in a region in which the neighbouring inland ports of Galati (Romania) and Reni (Ukraine) represent serious competition for Giurgiulesti. Galati is 7 km from Giurgiulesti, Reni 8 km. The Danube is navigable with maritime shortsea vessels as far as Braila, roughly 20 km upstream from Giurgiulesti. Roughly 170 employees work in the centre, a figure that swells to 450 when firms operating from the business park are counted.
Another one of the gateway’s advantages is that it is served by both European standard-gauge and Russian broad-gauge railway lines. Railfreight traffic to and from the port has not played a major role in its operations so far, however – mainly because the entire rail infrastructure is in a rather ramshackle state.