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War in Ukraine – Ukrainian grain causes a lot of traffic on the Danube – News


The alternative traffic for Ukrainian grain is revitalizing Romania’s Danube shipping. This also has consequences for nature.

    Russia repeatedly bombs Ukrainian ports and ensures that Ukrainian grain cannot be transported. This makes it all the more important for Ukrainian ships to travel across the Danube to the Black Sea. A path that leads across Romania and through one of the largest nature reserves in Europe.

    And so, since the war, Ukrainian ships have been meandering through the Danube Delta, a protected world full of watercourses and reed forests. There, says Adrian Maizel from the Danube River Administration, navigation is particularly difficult.

Busy in the Danube Delta

    The Danube narrows in the delta from one kilometer to 60 meters. Here Romanian pilots guide the ships through the water. Normally 100 ships pass through here every month. Since the war in Ukraine there have been up to 450 ships. The Danube River administration had to change everything in a short period of time.

Adrian Maizel.


Adrian Maizel from the Danube River Administration in the district capital Galați on the left bank of the lower Danube. From here he observes the busy traffic in the Danube Delta.

SRF/Sarah Nowotny

In the port of Galați, Adrian Maizel points to a red dot far away in the gray-blue of the river. There is one of the new buoys. It is equipped with lights and sensors so that you can now drive at night. Thanks to money from the European Union, the Danube administration has also purchased software that shows all pilots where each ship is. On Meisel’s screen, dots swarm around the Black Sea like a swarm of bees.

Danube shipping.


Freight transport on the Danube. Ukrainian grain increasingly reaches the Black Sea via this route.


The area at the mouth of the Danube is heavily trafficked. Last year, up to 150 ships waited here to get from the sea to the river. The Romanians have hired more pilots within just a few months. There are 60 instead of 20 today. Retirees came back. The wages were increased and the training shortened.

Canal expansion with consequences for nature reserves

That’s risky. There have been no accidents so far, but it could happen at any time, says Meisel. Then the man from the Danube administration points to another point on the screen, to a sore spot. The point is a Ukrainian ship digging the Bystre Canal on Ukrainian territory. The goal: even more Ukrainian ships on the Danube.

But there is a problem: Once they reach a certain depth, many small canals in Romania are drained. Part of the nature reserve is silting up, and this outrages Romania. War, the needs of the global economy and nature conservation can hardly be reconciled.

Romania-Russia – a difficult relationship

On the one hand, shipping on the Danube brings Romania good money thanks to transit fees. Last year it was so much that the river administration had to pay something back to the state. On the other hand, there is probably an innate desire to help Ukraine against the enemy Russia, under whose communist influence Romania has suffered for decades.

EU and NATO member Romania does not feel threatened by Russia in the sense of a direct threat of war. But at least Russia has moved within 200 kilometers of Romania since the annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014. Russian drones have repeatedly crashed in Romania. The Russians’ desire for dominance in the Black Sea is also a thorn in Bucharest’s side. Last but not least, by far the largest NATO base in Europe is currently being built in Romania, costing billions.

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