Q: As a Commercial Director of the Constanta Port Authority, how do you see Romania’s role as a transit point for goods between Asia and Central Europe?
Alexandru Craciun: Asia is Europe’s greatest commercial partner, consequently, there are many routes between the two continents. Seen in a broad context, Romania doesn’t occupy a pivotal place between Asia and Europe, but when it comes down to a regional context – and look at Central Asia and Central Europe – one realizes that Romania may play a leading role in connecting the two regions if it takes advantage of this great asset that is the Port of Constanta.
This could be done mainly by better connecting the port with the hinterland through transport infrastructure. In this way, Romania, through Port of Constanta, becomes the fastest route to Central Asia.
Q: What is the economic potential of this transit and how far are we from reaching this potential?
Alexandru Craciun: The part of Central Europe which is accessible for Port of Constanta comprises a population of some 65 million inhabitants stretching along the lower and upper basins of the Danube River. On the other side, Central Asia is populated by some 60 million inhabitants. With the recent reintegration of Iran in the commercial circuits, we can add another 30 million (mainly the Northern part of Iran) to the pool of consumers and producers that can be accessed through Port of Constanta.So, just in this geographical context, Port of Constanta connects some 155 million consumers and producers.
However, the main issue of the region is the trade imbalances existing between the two spaces. On one side, we have a European region that is a net exporter of agricultural and industrial products and, on the other side, an Asian region as a net importer of these products. Trade imbalances are reflected in higher rates for transport between the two regions.
Q: Being a potential transit point (or even a real transit point) does not seem to be enough if the rail and road infrastructure is not keeping the pace with the transit. Please detail, what is more important now: the rail infrastructure or the road infrastructure?
Alexandru Craciun: Actually, they are both important elements of the transport system that complement each other. In the modern transport system, a cargo seldom drives directly from the point of origin to an export seaport. Most often, there are intermediary points (dry ports, river ports etc.) that act as transshipment points to the seaport. Such intermediary points have to be very well connected, both with railways (ensuring mass transportation), as well as road infrastructure (ensuring capillarity).
Q: Is Constanta Port a bottle-neck in terms of transit (since we are witnessing major vessels arrivals)? Please detail.
Alexandru Craciun: Basically, all seaports are bottle-necks. Huge amounts of cargo coming off a maritime vessel have to be shipped to the hinterland using much smaller transport units. For example, a portcontainer may discharge up to 2,000 containers in the port in just one day. The carrying capacity of a train is up to 80 containers and that of a truck is limited to 2 containers.
So, the port area acts like a buffer zone, balancing the transport capacities between the sea and the land. In this respect, this trend of ever larger ships puts a lot of stress on the current infrastructure and forces market players to find better transport solutions.