Dmytro Chalyi: We discussed not only the risks but also the opportunities at the Conference of Directors of the Danube Shipping Companies

The 63rd Conference of Directors of the Danube Shipping Companies, Members of Bratislava Agreements (the Conference) took place on October 17-18, 2018 in Budapest. In addition to the delegation of the PJSC «Ukrainian Danube Shipping Company» the Conference was attended by the representatives of one and a half dozen shipping companies and the shipping companies, Members of Bratislava Agreements, as well as enterprises and organizations whose activity is related to water transport and the Danube shipping. The Chairman of the Board of the PJSC «UDP» Dmytro Chalyi has told the magazine «Shipping» about the Conference and its results.

– Mr. Chalyi, the Conference has been gathering together serious and authoritative participants for its meetings for 63 successive years. Is the list of topics still not exhausted?

– The agenda of the Conference meetings includes issues that contribute to the implementation of Bratislava Agreements. The first of these Agreements were signed in Bratislava as far back as in 1950s of the previous century, and today together with the Contract of cooperation of the Danube shipping companies which was also signed in Bratislava in 1992, they define the main commercial and legal terms of cooperation in the carriage of foreign trade cargo on the Danube.The Contract and the Agreements stipulate that the main form of cooperation of the Members of the Agreements is the Conference of Directors of the Danube Shipping Companies, which considers and takes decisions on all issues within the scope of the Contract of cooperation, as well as on issues related to compliance with the Contract by its participants. It is established by the Contract that the managing body of the Conference is a plenary meeting of the Members of Bratislava Agreements, where all decisions are taken, as well as the rules for the organization and holding of the Conference are regulated and there are classified the issues that are dealt with.

At the 63rd Conference we discussed the development of the Danube shipping infrastructure, the technical condition of the fleet, the peculiarities of work at ports, and considered in detail the issues of organization of work of the fleet at the limiting stretches of the Danube, as well as interaction with the authorities of the Danube countries and European institutions on issues of safety of navigation.

However, the list of topics that are considered at the Conference is not only defined by the Contract of cooperation and the framework of Bratislava Agreements, but also by the important related topics that affect the conditions for the carriage on the Danube. For example, we talked a lot about the state of the Danube shipping, the economic conditions and the situation on the transportation market, the EU transport policy and the necessity for the effective integration of the Rhine-Danube transport corridor into the network of other pan-European waterways and transport corridors.

But in the end we talked about the Danube most of all. 

– But the Danube is a quiet plain river, is it capable of some kind of surprises?

– The surprises of the Danube have been well known: it’s shallow water, high water and freeze-up. Moreover, shallow water cannot even be considered a surprise. This is more likely common pre-autumn occurrence, because the Danube is fed by water mainly in summer due to snow melting in the Alps and rainfalls, as a rule these resources slacken in autumn.

However, you can confidently say that in most cases the Danube fleet works under the conditions of systematic shallow water. And this is control restriction of vessels, decrease in speed with increased energy expenditures, decrease in payload weight, which impairs both safety and the economic efficiency of navigation.

Consequently, for the members of Bratislava Agreements the most important issue of the Conference meetings is heavy navigational conditions on the Danube due to the long absence of depths necessary for navigation. Most of all attention is paid to this.

For example, at this conference, on behalf of the previous conference, the delegation of the Romanian shipping company «Navrom SA» reported on the settlement of the situation with dredging operations on the Romanian-Bulgarian stretch of the Danube. This was a detailed presentation where we were shown schemata and profiles of certain stretches of the river. The Romanians made a lot of efforts to ensure that the specified operations and other measures began and were carried out.

We also listened to the delegation of the Bulgarian shipping company «Bulgarian River Shipping J.S.Co.» on the results of the tender and fulfilled dredging operations on the Danube stretch, which is in the responsibility of Bulgaria; all the members of the Conference are driving their convoys there, and this information is extremely important for them. 

Has the delegation of the PJSC «UDP» initiated consideration of any issues?

– Yes, we have prepared several issues for consideration, including information on the practical application of the «Memorandum on the underlying principles of cooperation of shipping companies on organization of navigation under the conditions of shallow water in the area of Luta bar and other limiting stretches on the Danube», which was signed in 2003.

As a result of the discussion of this issue, it was noted that the measures stipulated in the Memorandum cannot provide a guaranteed traffic of convoys and single vessels due to the bars in critical conditions of shallow water. Therefore, the Conference decided to appeal to the Danube Commission for the preparation of appeals to the maritime administrations of Bulgaria and Romania, which carry out the control of navigation in the area of Luta bar, and to all shipping companies, Members of Bratislava Agreements to make their masters aware of the text of the Memorandum once again, to require them to coordinate their actions with the masters of vessels of other shipping companies during the passage of the Danube limiting stretches, to adhere strictly the provisions of the Memorandum, especially in regard to the adherence to the priority of the passage of the river bars and carefully assess the risks when deciding to cross the rift with drafts that exceed the draft clearance; also in a binding offer to fulfill mutual information of the shipping companies, Members of Bratislava Agreements on navigational conditions at the limiting stretches of the Lower Danube during the period of shallow water.

You have noted that the delegation of the PJSC «UDP» prepared several issues for the Conference.

– Yes, we also provided information on the activity of the PJSC «UDP» for the period 2017-2018, and also reported on the fulfillment of the mandate of the 62th Conference regarding the work with the Cabinet of European Commissioner for Transport in order to establish an essential mechanism for the support and development of the Danube shipping. According to our report the Conference affirmed the decision to set up a working group of experts from representatives of several shipping companies to continue negotiations with the Cabinet of Commissioner and instructed the PJSC «UDP» to coordinate work on this issue.

Also, on the basis of our another report and presentation the Conference instructed the PJSC «UDP» to prepare a draft of the information system for the purpose of informing about the activities of both the Conference and the shipping companies, Members of Bratislava Agreements.

What are the other important decisions that were affirmed by the 63th Conference?

– In my opinion, a very important decision was on the necessity to revise and update the terms and conditions of the Contract of cooperation and the current Bratislava Agreements. We determined the procedure which this work will be carried out by and provided the relevant instructions to the shipping companies, Members of Bratislava Agreements. This is a normal process: due to the transformation of the economic and legal conditions the revision of these documents took place earlier, amendments were introduced both to the Contract and Agreements, obsolete provisions were canceled, the term of some Agreements was suspended. 

Are you satisfied with the results of the work of the Conference?

– Yes, I am. I’m satisfied with the fruitful work and the fact that all propositions and amendments offered by the delegation of the PJSC «UDP» were reflected in the Protocol of the 63rd Conference. According to the results of the work of the Conference the PJSC «UDP» has already prepared specific proposals to the Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine.

I liked the responsible attitude of the Members of Bratislava Agreements to their duties and given assignments. There appeared confidence that together we can overcome a lot of difficulties, the Danube shipping companies have enough of them. Though the participants of the Conference are rivals on the Danube transportation market, they want to have a civilized market and that’s why they have managed to unite their efforts for the development of effective cooperation in commercial legal, economic, operational, technical and other issues related to the carriage of cargo in the international Danube traffic. There was a feeling that the purpose of the participants is not just to pursuit profits, but to ensure sustained, continued growth of the Danube transportation market on the basis of mutual economic benefit.

We were discussing not only risks, but also opportunities, searching mechanisms to solve common problematic issues, considering the ways to improve attractiveness of the Danube shipping.

– Judging by everything, the Conference provides improvement of professional knowledge?

– For sure, there is constant exchange of experience, which gives not only mutual enrichment. It also helps to understand what level you are on, motivates you for new ideas. We have a very specific market and that’s why we don’t have another opportunity like the Conference for exchange of experience and knowledge. I took part in this event for the first time and while communicating with my colleagues I understood that the Conference is strategically important for them. They are businessmen and a businessman has to see perspectives, feel the tendencies, understand the directions of development at least to know whether to invest in long term-projects, for example modernization and renovation of the fleet, in new technological systems of carriage of cargo. Any business needs clear and reliable perspective. The Conference gives its participants necessary objects.

– What else the Conference in Budapest has been remembered for?

– Any conference is useful not only with regard to the participation in discussions, decision affirmation, exchange of experience and information during plenary meetings, it also provides an opportunity to get acquainted with colleagues, discuss projects of common interest and expand the professional circle of communication. «Behind the scenes» there were many interesting meetings and professional communication. There were not only shipping companies at the Conference, but also cargo owners, port, charter, agency, forwarding, brokerage, insurance and other companies and organizations which are interested in the development of transportation on the Danube. The Conference has appeared to be a great platform for establishing business contacts and developing professional relationships.

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