Severe weather badly affects operations in Azov Sea, Sulina canal

Bad weather is causing major disruption to Russian shallow water Azov Sea ports and added to delays from Ukraine's small water ports in the south of the country, trade sources have told Agricensus, in a development that could further compromise grain and oilseed supplies from the Black Sea. 

Windy and rainy weather has been hitting the shallow water ports in Russia and Ukraine, with operations completely stopped in Azov until the weather improve, and delays reported in the Ukrainian small water ports that have increased the congestion in the Sulina canal - the link connecting the Black Sea with the River Danube.

Russian ports have also faced bad weather for a number of weeks already, but this week winds around the ports on the River Don have been so strong that they have effectively blown water out of the river ports, preventing any loading or discharging operations.

“It's all paralyzed for now, and there's no real reason to quote rates, or prices,” a freight broker said, with a trader saying that one ship has only been half loaded and has now waited a week to complete, while newly arrived vessels are also forced to wait.

The storms have also coincided with the arrival of winter, and the start of the ice season, announced on December 7, which could also lead to an increase in freight rates as ice-class vessels increasingly need to be used.

The restrictions were not limited to the shallow water ports of Azov or the Danube, with deep Black Sea Russian ports like Taman and Kavkaz also reporting some delays caused by weather.

Freight hit

At the same time, despite the challenges, regional freight rates so far have not shown as much movement as expected, with a coaster-sized vessel from Azov still able to be fixed at around $65-66/mt, even though owners have shown ideas at levels around $70/ mt and higher.

Furthermore, trade sources have said that that the shipment delays amid the bad weather could be seen as a bullish factor, for now, as they have see some falls in price ideas amid sluggish demand - with routes into Turkey showing the signs of early pressure.

“I can't say that it has affected the prices. The market is falling, although, in theory, such delays should lead to an increase in spot prices on CIF and DAP,” a local broker said, referring to values for delivered cargoes.

“It is of course bullish, but at the moment doesn’t reflect on prices,” a Turkish source said.

Trade sources hope that the weather will get better later this week, or at least water levels will improve in key Azov ports to make it possible to load the ships.

Ukrainian small water ports have also faced challenges amid weather, with loading operations delayed amid rain.

The flow of vessels in the Sulina canal was also said to have been affected, with queues increasing to more than 100 ships and forcing an increase in the delay time of up to two weeks, according to trade sources.

But also, no major changes were seen for the market in terms of freight rate ideas or delivered CFR prices for the grains shipped via such routes.