Today I would like to address the long-standing issues that for many decades have hindered the growth of economies in our main regions of interest – Eastern Europe, Black Sea and the Mediterranean area. As the leader of an oil trading business, I believe that one key area that has the potential to unlock substantial economic development in this region is modernisation of maritime transport and ports.
As these economies continue to grow, the rising demand for energy is placing additional pressure on already limited energy infrastructure which was historically under-invested in, making it difficult to meet the region’s energy needs. Many countries in the region have inefficient transportation systems, outdated ports, pipeline and storage capacities, which makes it difficult to transport and store large quantities of diesel.
Furthermore, when addressing the energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, and planning for a more stable and sustainable future of energy supplies, it is important to learn from past experiences, react fast to the changing trends in logistics technologies and find efficient ways to make the logistics smooth. Certainly, the solution will require a concerted effort and cooperation from policymakers, market participants and stakeholders across the region, but this is critical to ensuring the long-term economic prosperity of the European region.
While MasterChemOil is focusing on the logistics in Romania, we understand that if the logistics are not improved here, Romania is going to suffer, but as a consequence, the whole region will do too. To get to the root of the problem, let me first look closely at the current status of logistics and infrastructure across the key regional economies:
- Ukraine – given the ongoing war the country’s consumption is very high. However, in times of peace, when they will start reconstructing the infrastructure of cities, which were probably destroyed, the volumes will likely double because the demand will increase significantly. Right now, Ukraine has the Black Sea supply chain and the Polish supply chain, but new solutions will need to be found with additional increases in energy shipment demands. We see that some Ukrainian companies already bought trains, so they own trains and terminals. They are trying to become independent and create new supply chains, but this will not be enough, in our opinion. We believe that in the future the demand will probably be 3-4 times higher than the existing logistic possibilities.
- Poland – if you look at Poland right now, their logistic capacity is at its maximum. They also need to invest a lot to increase the throughput and the transport capacity as well as piping around the country. In addition, we have to take into account that they have a population of 40 million people and on top of that 10 million Ukrainian immigrants.
- Hungary and Austria – as both countries are landlocked, they are focused on developing the pipe capacities from Italy’s Trieste in the North of the Adriatic Sea and the Koper terminal in Slovenia which will serve the shortage in Austria and Hungary. However, one must not forget the impact of recent unplanned local refinery shutdowns which lasted for three months (OMW refinery in Austria and MOL refinery in Hungary).
- Serbia and Bulgaria – both countries are still dependent on Russian flows, with the Burgas refinery in Bulgaria being granted an exemption from the European Union’s ban on imports of Russian energy until the end of 2024.
I would also like to take a moment to compare the current situation in Poland and Romania. Given the situation with Ukrainian immigrants, the shortage of diesel in Poland is higher, compared to that in Romania. Nevertheless, both countries need to find ways to move the product faster than before, but at the same time, we are talking about rail infrastructure that is very old. Given that unfortunately the pipe grid of diesel and gasoline does not exist anymore in Romania, we are all relying on trains and trucks. Obviously, trucks have a lower volume than what we can ship by trains. Thus, we need more trains, more wagons, more locomotives and we need government support to modernise and develop new rail infrastructure in both Romania and Poland.
Although MasterChemOil is not operating in Poland, we are in contact with very big players in Poland, particularly because they have access to the sea. We are exchanging information and we are trying to find common solutions. The impression I have after all these discussions is that Romania has a bigger growth potential for logistics improvement than Poland does, simply because Poland already reached the maximum level. Obviously, there are private initiatives that are pushing the efficiency of logistics to the highest level possible.
What we are seeing generally across the region is that there are companies that are trying to enhance and make more efficient the inland distribution, storage and transshipment stations. All the countries are trying to find a solution, yet we are united through the same challenges of poor logistics, old infrastructure, limited refining capacity, and reliance on diesel. At MasterChemOil we believe that tackling these important issues would produce significant benefits if addressed within a regional approach, instead of on a national level.
We also believe that the model of high-throughput technologies which we are using in Romania needs to be followed in Poland and Hungary as well. The whole region is very short on product and the new terminal in the free zone of Constanța port with access and a waterway going all the way up to Serbia, Hungary and Austria would be a part of the solution because it is unlikely that in Trieste and Koper they would be able to double the capacity in such a short time, given that just the engineering will take significant time.
Undoubtedly, this is a complex issue that requires coordination and collaboration from all countries involved and we hope to work together to modernize infrastructure and simplify regulations so that we can create a reliable and efficient maritime and transport network, thus making this sector more attractive for investors. As a team, we are committed to working with partners, colleagues, and stakeholders to achieve this goal and contribute to the economic development of our region.
CEO of MasterChemOil