Barge bringing watermelons to Kyiv harbinger of resurrected river travel in Ukraine



The Dnipro was an established water artery from the medieval times of Kyivan Rus, when, as the legend goes, the three brothers of Kyi, Shchek, Khoryv, and their sister Lybid founded the city of Kyiv after arriving at its shores via a boat from the north. In Soviet times, the river was used for both cargo transport and cruises, but the river fleet didn’t withstand the turbulent times of Ukraine’s independence.

Today, a barge full of watermelons could be the harbinger of the revival of this cost-efficient transport along Ukraine’s main water channel. The Ukrainian south and especially the Kherson Oblast are famous for its juicy watermelons ripening in August. Up until 1993, they were regularly transported to the Ukrainian capital by river. In 2003, there was an unsuccessful attempt to restore this way of transporting the famous Kherson berries up north (and watermelons are berries by biological classification).

The first barge carrying 250 tons of watermelons departed from the Hola Prystan port in Kherson Oblast on 31 July and is almost in Kyiv.

This pilot project is a result of a cooperation between 6 local farmer companies, Nibulon, one of the largest grain companies in Ukraine, USAID within the framework of the project “Supporting agrarian and rural development,” and the Silpo supermarket chain, where the watermelons will be sold at cheaper prices.

As the business portal reported, road transport prices grow by 2-2.5 times during the high season in Ukraine, because alternative modes of transportation are lacking. Difficulties with logistics and sales result in approximately 30% of the watermelon harvest going to waste on the field. There are other problems arising from transportation by lorries: approximately 10-13% of the product is mechanically damaged, and the heavy vehicles deform the hot summer asphalt on their way.

On the barge, the watermelons will be packed in special containers which will reduce the transportation losses from 10% to 2-3%. In result, farmers will receive significant savings, and consumers – a better product.

Patrick Reider, a project manager at USAID, noted that small farmers usually do not have the opportunity to cooperate with trading networks since they produce relatively small volumes of production. According to him, the watermelon barge project will help agricultural producers of the Kherson Oblast to unite, form large batches of crops, and build a new efficient supply chain from the Kherson Oblast fields to the largest supermarket networks. Modern international logistics and packaging standards will be applied, and consumers will receive a better quality and fresh watermelon, said Reider.

The project will use the new berth constructed by Nibulon, and the transportation of not only watermelons but also grains, peppers, onions, tomatoes, other vegetables, and fruits to Kyiv and Belarus is planned, too.

In the fall, the company plans to purchase the third FUCHS MHL385 grapple reloader by the Austrian company TERREX, which will handle loading and unloading operations at the branch of Hola Prystan, including those with vegetable products from the Kherson Oblast. In the future, warehouses will be built for the accumulation and formation of ship batches for further transportation by river transport. The company is also exploring the possibility of installing refrigerated containers on the existing fleet, which will allow transporting products that spoil easily for longer distances.

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