В статье поднимаются проблемы, вызванные кризисом вокруг Украины. В частности, отмечается чрезвычайно отрицательное влияние напряженности в Крыму и на Востоке Украины, в особенности, в Донецкой области, на торговлю, в том числе зерновую, а также на инвестиционный климат.

Тhe Ukraine-Russia conflict, Europe’s most serious political crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union more than 20 years ago, has already begun to take a signifi­cant economic toll on the region, with a pronounced slowdown in capital invest­ment and construction projects, and the flight of foreign capital from Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.

A political crisis initiated with the overthrow of Ukrainian President and Moscow ally Viktor Yanukovych fol­lowed with Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula in the Black Sea, and escalated into a tense military standoff.

More recently, the breakdown in a ceasefire between Russian-backed rebel militias and government forces and re-escalation in the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine followed rebels shoot­ing down a Malaysian passenger airline.

Despite continued fighting between the government and rebel troops, the prospect of a direct Ukraine-Russia mili­tary confrontation is unlikely, just as an end to the region’s destabilizing months-long conflict remains a longway off.

The U.S. and EU response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its tacit support for the rebels has been limited to travel restrictions, asset freezes, and the targeting of various state-owned banks and energy groups. However, a further escalation in the crisis could yet lead to deeper trade and financial sanctions tar­geted against the world’s eighth-largest economy.

Given Crimea’s and Ukraine’s stra­tegic significance to supply and trade routes within the Black Sea basin, the regional conflict has had an escalating impact on regional shipping and project cargo transport over the last six months.

The European Union’s introduction in June of a ban on imported goods from Crimea without a special Ukrainian gov­ernment certification has already seen a substantial downturn in cargo transport and the flow of shipping volumes out of annexed peninsula’s previously busy deep-water port facilities.

Alexander Varvarenko, CEO of Varamar, an Odessa-based firm operating a semi-liner and cargo transporta­tion services globally and throughout the Black Sea, outlined how the Ukrainian government has taken steps to prohibit domestic corporations from continuing to operate out of Crimea since the Rus­sian annexation.

“We simply are not allowed to do business there (Crimea). For bulk exports, all the cargoes have simply moved to Odessa or alternative Black Sea ports,” Varvarenko said.

While government authorities are no longer in control of Crimean ports, they have also taken steps to prevent international vessels from operating within the strategically important peninsula which, despite its majority Russian ethnic population, had until March been ruled by Kiev since being gifted to Ukraine in 1954 by Soviet pre­mier, Nikita Khrushchev.

The Ukrainian government “has announced that all Crimean ports have been closed for international vessels,” according to Steven Eke, senior analyst for Russia and the former Soviet Union at Control Risks, a consultancy specializing in political and security risk.

“The only way it can enforce this, of course, is to target ships docking in Ukraine-controlled ports – Odessa, for example – after they have visited Crimea, and we have already received a number of reports of precisely this happening, some­times involving seizure of vessels and the detention of crew,” Eke said.

With the majority of its rich farm­lands located away from the conflict zone in central regions, Ukraine’s posi­tion as the world’s fourth-largest global grain exporter has so far been unthreat-ened by the crisis, with the majority of its sea-bound agricultural exports leav­ing from alternative Black Sea ports.

Other Ukrainian exports that previ­ously left the country through Crimea have also been redirected to alternative port facilities, to the detriment of an already struggling Crimean economy. Some reports suggest that the volume of cargo passing through ports there had fallen by more than half in annual terms by the end of June.

With the prospects of any for­mal political resolution surrounding Crimea’s legal conflict unlikely to come for the duration of 2014 and likely beyond, the situa­tion could remain difficult for both regional and inter­national shippers operating in this part of the Black Sea, Eke said.

Due to “the illegality of the annexation and the risks to foreign companies going to Crimea result­ing from that, it’s clear that the Ukrainian authorities will continue to act against foreign shipping companies which decide nonetheless to use Crimean ports,” he added.

The conflict has yet to disrupt access to Kerch Strait, bordered by Crimea and mainland Russia, the sole route for accessing the Sea of Azov, the Caspian Sea and the Volga, Europe’s largest river. Barring an improbable future blockade of the Sea of Azov or full military conflict by the Ukrainian or Russian navies, this shipping route is unlikely to be signifi­cantly affected by the crisis.

Most of Ukrainian agricultural exports have continued to operate out of alternative ports. But the mili­tary conflict has severely disrupted inward trade routes and regional sup­ply chains in the country’s industrial heartland in the eastern provinces, most notably Donesk, where the worst of the con­frontation between the government and rebels has taken place. Varamar’s Varvarenko said fighting between the government and autonomy-seeking rebel militia’s has resulted in a sharp deceleration in foreign investment, notably relating to construction sector projects, into eastern regions since fight­ing began in March, with destruction of railroads proving particularly disruptive to cargo transit.

This business slowdown is also confirmed by Sergey Nazarenko, a com­mercial director at Dealex Transport, a group of companies that operate ship­ping and freight forwarding services with offices located throughout Central and Eastern Europe countries, including Ukraine and Russia.

While Crimea does not represent a large proportion of Dealex’s regional operations, the firm did successfully complete a large delivery to Crimean Port of Sevastopol in March. However, delivery of the 65-tonne cargo, compris­ing a high-voltage transformer and main body reactor, accompanying oil tanks and auxiliary equipment, took place by trucks rather than the originally planned railroad due to the start of unrest in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea.

As with many other Ukrainian ship­ping firms and project cargo carriers, Dealex has since been unable to carry out further business in Crimea.

While outlining how business in southern and western parts of the coun­try have been largely unaffected by the conflict since March and the reloca­tion of exports from Crimea to other Ukrainian ports with comparative ease, Nazarenko also confirmed that the situa­tion in eastern provinces has been much more disruptive to project cargo carriers.

Although international clients are still interested in completing existing projects in Eastern Ukraine and engag­ing in future investment, the reality of the situation on the ground has made business extremely difficult. Because of the ongoing civil unrest, “security and the making of payments from that area has become very difficult, with many offices still closed,” he said in mid-sum­mer 2014.

Striking a more optimistic note, Nazarenko expects a significant pickup in business, particularly within Eastern Ukraine’s construction sector-related project cargo, once the military situation stabilizes.

However, given escalating tensions throughout Eastern Ukraine, the time­frame in which this can occur remains in doubt, and firms may find themselves needing to adjust to the region’s more complicated political status quo, with a potentially ongoing sharp deceleration in business during the remainder of 2014 and potentially beyond.

Автор: Mark Willis

Источник: Breakbulk Magazine. – 2014. – September-October. – P. 38 – 42.

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