Top economic media in Belarus reports E40 waterway not viable

A recent article in the Belarusian economic newspaper, Economic Gazeta (Экономическая Газета), condemns government plans to increase budgetary support for water transport in the country and the construction of the E40 waterway along Polesia’s rivers.

The economic newspaper quotes the call from Belarusian business associations to recognize the fact that rivers and canals have lost their former importance as transport ways as the region’s network of roads and railways develops. This should be seen as a natural result of industry transformation. According to economists, increased funding for waterway transport and hence also for the planned E40 waterway will not make it more competitive. In such circumstances, the economists called on the government to focus on the further development of electric rail infrastructure, as well as on sustainable development opportunities like eco-tourism in Polesia.

Insignificant economic contribution

The authors state that water transport plays an insignificant role in the Belarusian economy. In 2020, water transport contributed only 0.02% to the total freight turnover in Belarus. This transport means will continue to lose to rail and road carriers in terms of delivery costs, delivery speed, and a number of other logistical factors.

Despite the niche market and small economic contributions, the government continues to actively subsidize the waterway industry – water transport has now outpaced rail and road transport in terms of subsidies . From 2021-2025, the government plans to further increase the amount in aggregate up to 94.7 million BYN (approximately 32 million euros) over five years.

Waterway transport is predominantly used for sand, extracted by the transport companies themselves during dredging and maintenance operations. Some crushed stone is also shipped, supplied by a single manufacturer, and sporadic orders for the transport of oversized cargo.

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Top image shoes the Pripyat River, in Polesia. © Viktar Malyshchyc