CZ/SK verze

From Ukraine to Egypt, now via Slovakia!

From Ukraine to Egypt, now via Slovakia!
photo: ZSSK CARGO/From Ukraine to Egypt, now via Slovakia!
09 / 01 / 2023

High-quality white kaolinite mined in Ukraine used to reach customers mainly by sea via Ukrainian ports. As with cereals, this commodity has had to find new routes to customers since 2022. One of the routes, all the way to North Africa, now passes through Slovakia.

Ukraine not only has fertile soil but also great mineral wealth, which can help the European Union reduce its dependence on imports from other countries. In addition to the new transport and transshipment possibilities for Ukrainian grain exports, transshipment points for other commodities have appeared this year in eastern Slovakia. It is for dry terminals with a change of gauge that new possibilities are offered. And even for less well-known commodities. These include, for example, kaolinite.

When ports are unavailable, rail is the solution 

Kaolinite is a mineral raw material used in our country, for example, by cement factories in the Záhorie region to produce white cement. Kaolinite, which is supplied from Ukraine, is, however, valued for its whiteness and quality by the world's best tile and sanitary ware manufacturers from Italy and Spain. In 2021, over 1.6 million tonnes of kaolinite were extracted in Ukraine, of which more than 64% were exported. As in the case of grain, commodity flows were directed to Ukrainian ports where kaolinite was transhipped onto ships and sent to consumers. The military aggression on Ukrainian territory threatened these flows, and new ways were sought to get the highly valued raw material onto production lines. Rail was the answer. 

Kaolinite's journey from the processor to the Slovak border

Customers of kaolinite from Ukraine are not only European companies, but also, for example, ceramics manufacturers from Alexandria, a city on the northern coast of Egypt. Kaolinite was ordered from a supplier near the town of Kozjatyn, about 200 kilometers southwest of Kyiv. "The kaolinite processing plant located near the town in question produces about 140 000 tonnes of kaolinite per year. Fifteen broad gauge wagons set off on a thirteen-day journey to the transshipment yard in Čierna nad Tisou, where they were taken over by the transshipment yard staff and transferred to European gauge wagons," explains Jozef Cenký, head of ZSSK CARGO's commodity group for timber and building materials, explaining the start of the transport. Kaolinite was loaded into large-capacity bags, so-called big bags, which were protected from the weather by tarpaulins in the open Ukrzaliznytsia wagons. In Slovakia, however, covered wagons were already used for transport.

A completely covered train

The quality of the transshipment was taken care of by BTS staff. Thanks to the fully retractable sides of the wagons, including the roof section, it was possible to crane large sacks directly – from the wide gauge wagons on one track to the covered usual gauge wagons on the next track. As the capacity of the Ukrainian wagons is considerably larger, up to 19 wagons were needed on the Slovak side to transport the entire load. After shifting the train set, a complete train was formed, which was pulled by an eight-and-a-half thousand horsepower Vectron locomotive. 

Through the Eastern Slovakian transshipment points to Alexandria 

The train set off on its 550-kilometer journey across Slovakia on 21 December 2022 in the morning. After a stop in Spišská Nová Ves, it was joined at the tail by its twin, a 131 class locomotive, which helped push it to the upper station of Štrba, where the solo Vectron managed the descent of the Štrba ramp and the onward journey along the Váh. The final destination was the crossing station with Hungary near Bratislava, Rusovce. From there, the wagons traveled almost 600 kilometers to Sežana station, located on the Slovenian-Italian border near the port city of Trieste. At the nearest port, the large sacks headed to the hold of a naval ship, on which they crossed the Mediterranean, and the fragile goods reached their destination in Egypt. Why fragile? "The kaolinite must not get dirty or soaked with moisture, lest it spoils. Our company has once again proved to be a reliable partner in this transport, able to ensure both the quality of the transshipment and the transport of the goods," explains Jozef Cenký.