Belarus is a developing economy positioned in Eastern Europe. It is a landlocked country bordering Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Poland. The Republican Transport Unitary Enterprise, also known as the Belarusian River Shipping Company is responsible for shipping goods to and from the country.
It has a fleet consisting of 52 tugboats, 99 barge platforms with a 900-tonne capacity and 7 passenger vessels.
Cruise trips and shore excursions along the Mukhavets and Sozh rivers are also organised by the company for attracting tourism.
Navigable rivers flowing throughout the region are used for transporting bulk and project cargoes from Belarus to the Black Sea port of Klaipeda. Oil and gasoline are shipped from the Ust-Luga port, Russia. The Pripet and Dnieper rivers directly connect some Belarusian ports to the major Balck seaports.
In 2021, more than 1.5 million tonnes of cargo and 74,500 passengers were handled by the company. Major export goods included construction materials like sand and stone, followed by machine parts. The busiest ports were Gomel which dealt with 399,000 tonnes of cargo and Pinsk which handled approximately 237 tonnes.
In this article, let us have a look at the ports of Belarus.
1. Port of Brest
Brest is an important commercial and transportation centre, situated in the southwestern part of Belarus. It serves as the capital of the region and is one of the biggest towns, housing over 335,000 inhabitants.
It is a border town with rail connections to Moscow and other Polish cities. The topography is characterised by lowlands and marshes. North of the town is the Bialowieza Reserve overlooking the rugged mountains.
The river port lies at the confluence of the Western Bug and Mukhavets River. It contains a 420-metre-long pier, handling passenger boats and small cargo vessels. Port equipment is limited to two quay cranes and three forklifts. Brest is connected to the Port of Klaipeda which acts as a transit port for Belarus.
The city has a long history of conflict and invasions beginning in 1020 AD. It was established by people of Slavic descent which makes it one of the oldest settlements in the world. Known as Berestye in ancient times, the town was ravaged by Mongols and later became a part of the Lithuanian territory. After remaining with Poland for over 20 years, Russia attacked and sacked the town in the late 17th century.
Brest was an important inland waterway during the mediaeval period. It shipped timber and corn to many European nations. Ultimately, it went to the Germans during the Second World War.
A melting pot of cultures, traditions and heritage, Brest is a famous historic town with several anthropological museums, sites, forts and palaces. It also has light industries, manufacturing mechanical parts of household appliances, motors, machine equipment etc.
2. Port of Minsk
Capital of Belarus, Minsk is a modern city with a strong industrial and manufacturing sector. Minsk port is situated on Svislach and Niamiha, one of the crucial navigable waterways of the country. These rivers were formed by the melting of glaciers during the last ice age. Five smaller streams flow through the city, ultimately draining into the Black Sea. Minsk serves as the administrative seat of the region and has a population of more than 2.1 million people.
It is also the financial centre of Belarus, housing over 300 manufacturing plants and several multinational companies producing a wide variety of products. Industrial growth began in the mid-1850s with the introduction of railways. Though much public infrastructure was laid waste in the Second World War, the government rebuilt the city.
Today, it is a major producer of transport vehicles like trollies, trucks, optics, household appliances, bicycles, metal products etc. Apart from these, textile-making, traditional printing and food packaging are other vital industries. The end products are shipped from Minsk on barges and shipped all over the world via the ports of Russia and Ukraine.
The port of Minsk can accommodate bulkers and general cargo vessels with draft restrictions. A large storage area covering 7000 m2 and ten warehouses are located at some distance from the port premises for storing cargo. The latest port equipment allows smooth loading and unloading of cargo. It has three mobile cranes, four trailers, a gantry and two forklifts. Close to the facility is a truck parking area and a cafeteria.
An important item of export is pinewood, which is found in abundance. The northern and southern edges of Minsk are lined with forests, some of which were labelled as protected ecoregions by the government, such as the Chelyuskintsev Park. The Zaslavskaya reservoir, one of the largest artificial reservoirs in Belarus, is a few kilometres from Minsk.
According to historical findings, the city was established by Lithuanians in the 10th century. Early mentions are found in eleventh-century manuscripts of traders and travellers. Controlling it was important from a military point of view, which encouraged Lithuania to conquer Minsk in the 12th century. It developed into a major agricultural and fishing settlement when it was captured by the Russian forces in 1794.
The Russians built a rudimentary port on the left bank of the Svislach river for receiving military supplies and food items. It was the most affected during the Russian Revolution and witnessed labour unions’ protests.
After Belarus became independent, many soviet-era constructions were converted into government offices. Decentralisation and privatisation led to improvements in transportation and communication.
3. Grodno dry port
The Grodno Oblast lies on the western border of Belarus. It is an industrial region traversed by the river Neman. A free economic zone was built in 2002 called Grodnoinvest, covering 4157 hectares for attracting foreign investments and businesses. Special economic incentives are given to the residents of the zone which reduce investment costs by 35 to 40 per cent.
It was established for promoting the socio-economic growth of the region by manufacturing products for export and providing an array of services to the clients.
Member companies and individual entrepreneurs can take plots of land on lease for developing their offices, warehouses or manufacturing facilities. The FEZ has 75 registered residents and over 19,100 staff members who oversee the implementation of the rules and regulations.
The industrial area has been operating for 14 years and has played a pivotal role in the economic progress of the oblast. Many industrial, transportation, manufacturing and food processing companies are members of the FEZ. Approximately 76 firms involved in furniture making, machine construction and light industries are part of the region. Also, many agro-based companies have come up.
Collectively, they make up 30% of the region’s production and contribute 45% to the export sector. Many innovative projects are implemented and businesses from more than 40 countries have invested in the same.
The success of the FEZ can be attributed to many factors, the first being its strategic geographical location. It is linked to neighbouring countries through the eastern and western railway networks and highways. The region has five international airports and is close to four major seaports including Kaliningrad, port Gdansk, Klaipeda and Riga.
Hence, a consumer market of 185 million people is directly accessible from the FEZ, which enables the industrial zone to transport goods and provide services readily. Most importantly, the authorities help in the registration process so industries can start their operations within a week of joining the industrial zone.
4. Port of Mazyr
The city of Mazyr lies on the northern banks of the Pripet, one of the most important Eastern European rivers. It is close to Chernobyl, Ukraine and is an industrial settlement, especially famous for oil refineries and the production of machinery.
Mazyr has the biggest oil refineries in Belarus, producing over 19 million tonnes annually. A tram runs throughout the city, starting from the station and terminating at the Mazyr refinery. Many workers migrate to the city which has increased the population by 1.5 million in the past few years, making it the second-most populous region of Belarus.
Port Characteristics and Layout
Crude oil from Russia is received at the Mazyr refinery via the Druzhba oil pipeline which branches out to the Polish and Ukrainian cities. The port of Mazyr serves shuttle tankers and has an oil jetty connected to the refinery. Bunkering and maintenance services are provided for small and medium-sized vessels.
The inland port was established in 1963 and is a major transhipment hub, dealing with packed goods and break bulk. It is also linked to the nation’s railway network. The mooring line spans 805 metres. Mazyr port has 9 towing ships, a dry-cargo ship platform with a capacity of 710 tonnes, an earth vehicle and a floating crane.
Mazyr dates back to the 11th century and was settled by the Jewish community. It flourished as a lucrative centre of commerce and handicrafts till the 17th century. Woodworking, match-making and metal industries were also founded. With the discovery of significant deposits of natural salt, a river port came up at Pripet.
The city had seven synagogues in the 19th century however all of them were destroyed by the Germans during the Second World War. All the Jews were executed in the local ghetto. After the war came to an end, some chose to come back and resettle. However, the destruction impacted the economy of Mazyr and almost all infrastructure was rebuilt by the government.
5. Port of Bobruisk
The river port is situated in the eastern part of Belarus, called Mogilev. The Bobruisk port was established in 1970 and lies on the river Berezina. It is a major facility for handling bulk cargo. The largest wood processing plant in the country is situated in the city, along with many chemical and metal production factories.
The harbour has a 570 metres mooring line. Port equipment consists of 3 towing vessels, 11 non-self-propelled vessels, 3 earth vehicles and a floating crane.
6. Port of Gomel
The city lies in southwestern Belarus on the right bank of river Sozh. In 1933, a port was established for handling break bulk including raw materials for industries. The city is closest to Chernobyl, the site of one of the worst nuclear accidents in the world. Hence, the authorities established numerous hospitals and sports facilities, considering the health of the residents.
The port of Gomel is accessible via railways and includes 500 m of mooring facilities. It has four passenger vessels, 7 towing ships and three cranes with a 10-tonne lifting capacity. Ships are repaired and refurbished at the Gomel Shipbuilding and Repair yard.
7. Port of Pinsk
Pink lies in the region of Polesia, at the mouth of the Pina river. Around 2 million people live in the city, known for its historical architecture, traditions, city centre and the newly constructed football stadium. It is also a famous tourist place having many themed parks, exhibitions and art galleries. Several prestigious education institutes are located in the city.
A port was established eight-kilometre upstream on the Pina river in 1939 for serving the city and its immediate hinterland. Today, the facility packages and deals with foodstuff, consumer products and loose cargo. It has a 350 m berthing space and possesses three portal cranes, each capable of lifting 5 tonnes.
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