Slovakia: a new route for transporting kaolin from Ukraine by rail

Marketa Horpeniakova, Published on 11/01/2023
Slovakia: a new route for transporting kaolin from Ukraine by rail

Similar to grain, alternative ways are being sought to transport this mineral commodity from Ukraine to Europe and North Africa.

Ukraine is not only one of the main suppliers of grain but also produces very high-quality white kaolin. Previously, it was mainly transported to customers by sea via Ukrainian ports. Now, as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, new ways must be found to transport this commodity to Europe and North Africa. Rail is thus becoming an alternative way of transporting kaolin.

In addition to the new transport and transshipment possibilities for Ukrainian grain exports, there are opportunities for the transshipment of other commodities, including kaolin, in eastern Slovakia, where dry terminals with a change of track gauge are available.

Kaolin, supplied from Ukraine, is valued for its whiteness and quality by the world's best producers of tiles and sanitary ware from Italy and Spain. In 2021, more than 1.6 million tonnes of kaolin were mined in Ukraine, of which more than 64% were exported. Customers of kaolin from Ukraine are not only European companies. Last December, Ukrzaliznytsia in cooperation with ZSSK CARGO dispatched a train from Ukraine with kaolin ordered by a ceramics manufacturer from Alexandria in northern Egypt.

"The kaolin processing plant produces approximately 140 000 tonnes of kaolin per year. Fifteen broad gauge wagons set off on a thirteen-day journey to the transshipment yard in Čierna nad Tisou, where they were taken over by the transshipment staff and transferred to European gauge wagons," explained the start of the transport Jozef Cenký, Head of the Commodity Group Wood and Building Materials at ZSSK CARGO. 

Since the capacity of the Ukrainian wagons is significantly larger, up to 19 wagons were needed on the Slovak side to transport the entire cargo. After the shifting of the train set, a complete train was formed, which was "pulled" by a Vectron locomotive with a power of eight and a half thousand horsepower. The train was traveling to Sežana station, located on the Slovenian-Italian border near the port city of Trieste. From the nearest port, the fragile goods then crossed the Mediterranean to their destination in Egypt.



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