Romania seeks to take over Moldova’s sole port, Giurgiulesti on the Danube, as the country prepares to play a key role in the reconstruction of Ukraine after the war, Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu said in an interview given to Digi24.
To this end, Romania’s transport ministry is in talks with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which owns the main operator of the river-to-sea port located at the confluence of the Danube and Prut rivers, Ciolacu confirmed.
"We have to realise that the Port of Constanța is strategic at the moment. I don't know what will happen to Odesa. There is another smaller port in the Republic of Moldova, Giurgiulești, and Romania through the Ministry of Transport already shown its interest in buying it from the EBRD and developing it because the majority shareholder in Giurgiulești port is the EBRD," stated Ciolacu.
After negotiations with the development bank's representative, Romania is waiting for an answer, Ciolacu added.
The EBRD is the owner of Danube Logistics, the company that holds a concession to operate and develop the port, which remains under the ownership of the Moldovan state.
Furthermore, the port has a complex legal history with multiple court cases, some still active as admitted by EBRD spokeswoman Vanora Bennet.
In June 2022, the investigating judge authorised the seizure of over MDL150mn (€7.5mn) of assets that form the share capital of Danube Logistics. The seizure was ruled by judges in an investigation related to alleged fraud committed by former owners and beneficiaries of Danube Logistics.
At the time the EBRD took over Danube Logistics by an indirect deal in Cyprus in 2021, the company’s assets were already subject to court restrictions in the same case.
Giurgiulesti port gives the landlocked country of Moldova in Southeast Europe its only commercial access to international waters.
Under a land swap agreement with Ukraine completed in 1999, Moldova received a short strip of the Danube shoreline – 450 metres – from which the borders with both Romania and Ukraine can be seen. This allowed the Giurgiulesti project to be expanded into the construction and operation of a port accessible to seagoing vessels and equipped with a terminal for the storage and trans-shipment of refined oil products.
In the context of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the port of Giurgiulesti played a key role in the supply of goods to and from Ukraine, reaching a record cargo transport volume of 1.8mn tonnes in 2022.
“Under a 99-year concession agreement, Danube Logistics builds, operates and expands the Giurgiulesti port … From the very beginning, in the 1990s, the Moldovan authorities sought to attract foreign investment for the design, development and operation of the port project. International investors have owned the project since its inception,” the EBRD said on taking over the port in 2021.