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Ukraine to Restart Black Sea RoPax Ferry to Georgia in July

Ukrainian RoPax ferry
Ukraine's Kaunas ferry is due to restart service for passengers and cargo traveling to Georgia (Ukrferry)

Published Jun 19, 2024 2:14 PM by The Maritime Executive

 

Ukrainian media is reporting that the country will restart RoPax ferry service for passengers and cargo in early July to Georgia for the first time since the Russian invasion. It is the latest step to build back exports and foreign trade following the moves in April and May to restart container operations.

Ukrferry, a company established in the 1990s, is showing the sailings on its website beginning July 9 from Chernomorsk. It is a 61-hour run to the port of Batumi on the southern coast of Georgia. The company had operated this route dating back to December 1996.

The RoPax ferry Kaunas will operate the service. Built in Germany in 1998, the vessel is 25,600 gross tons (7,665 dwt) with space for 250 passengers. It offers a lounge, bar, and restaurants, as well as cabins or long-distance ferry-style seating. It also has two cargo decks with the capacity for up to 49 rail cars and 50 trucks.

Ukrferry restarted its operations in July 2023 with its ferry Vilnius (9,341 dwt) operating between Romania and Georgia. 

Additionally, at the end of May, the Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority reported that negotiations were underway to also resume a ferry service connection to Baku, Azerbaijan on the Caspian Sea. Ukraine had announced plans to stop all shipments via Russia nearly a decade ago. The service had been launched in 2016 as part of the Trans-Caspian corridor designed to bypass Russia. It was designed to connect to China providing Ukraine another route to export primarily grain and metal products.

Restarting the ferries follows the expansion of the container service. At the end of May, Hapag-Lloyd, resumed its feeder service between Chernomorsk and Constanta, Romania after a Turkish freight forwarder reopened the route in April with chartered vessels. Maersk working with Iteris was also resuming the deep sea service after having been moving containers via the Danube. MSC Mediterranean Shipping was also scheduled to restart feeder service from Odesa this month.

The companies reported strong demand for the service. Hapag said its Danube service had booked solid when it was announced. Returning to the deep sea ports was a means of expanding capacity. Ukrainian officials also said that they were looking to expand with direct service to Turkey and later Egypt. Cargo volumes have already doubled since the services were resumed and the expectation is that they can quickly reach pre-war volumes.