Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine & USPA: chess, battles and taming of the shrew

(from the issue №1, 150, January)Сomplicated” relations between the Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine Volodymyr Omelyan and USPA (Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority, SOE, that is in the responsibility of the Ministry) wasn’t a secret for the industry. Therefore, many of us awaited of the logical conclusion of this “war”. And at the beginning of 2017 the Minister made a “blitzkrieg”, which led to the defeat of his opponents (at least, he positioned them so), but rather, a change of a head of the Authority and… moving USPA to the capital. From the sea.

“The Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine (MIU) started the reform of the maritime industry,” said Volodymyr Omelyan beginning in January active “military operations.” The direction of this reform was expected, and the minister did not hide: the key to this process will be the reform of the USPA. “This state-owned enterprise is a model of inefficiency, corruption and abuse. There are a lot of questions about controllability of the Authority. There was never such a resistance on any proposal of the Ministry! All our solutions were blocked or ignored,” he stressed.

And then he said that instead of acting USPA Yury Nakonechny he appointed Sergii Gronskii. According to Volodymyr Omelyan, it was a temporary measure taken to establish a working dialogue between the Ministry and the Authority, as well as “to stop the abuse,” which, he said, took place at the enterprise. Moreover, he announced the future appointment of a new head of USPA Raivis Veсkagans (citizen of Latvia, which has 15 years of experience in management positions in the maritime industry), as well as the prospects of moving the new head and the whole apparatus of SOE from Odessa to Kyiv: apparently “under the supervision” of the minister.

Opponents’ reaction was not long in coming: in a few days Primorsky district court of Odessa suspended minister’s order on changing the USPA head (1-O of 01/06/2017) – “before making a judgment in a civil case.”
However, it has not made much of an impression on the minister – and the next day, January 12, Volodymyr Omelyan presented (to the staff of the Authority) the new manager, Raivis Veсkagans. Minister added that R.V. has “complete freedom of action” in the USPA reformation and its transformation into a “transparent efficient company.” A few days later, commenting to media the situation with “appointments and suspensions”, the head of the transport department said: “The appointment of Raivis Veсkagans was held. The Court regards technical appointment of another person, this question will be considered in court.”

Thus, a kind of chess game was won by the minister. As well as a carte blanche to move USPA to Kyiv. And when they accuse him that it will cost 42 mln UAH for the budget he replied that “their staying at the place will cost a lot more to the state.”

Working the first days with a new status Raivis Veсkagans held a number of meetings where he appointed the vectors of the future activities. In particular, these are the continuation of the social dialogue with trade unions, the “reset” of relations with international dredging companies, and transparent implementation of all projects in this area, as well as active work on involving of international financial organizations in cooperation with Ukrainian port industry.



Let’s hope that all these changes are for better. One can understand the minister’s position, because the USPA (managing the situation in all the seaports of the country, collecting all the port charges, accumulating huge budget and determining where and when to deepen) is a kind of a “lump,” which is not so easily somewhere to turn, if it gained its own “course.”

Seaports, mostly state stevedores, often complained about the lack of needed dredging. But it seems not to be the case (USPA, at least in the last year and a half, was actively reporting of operational dredging in all harbors and shipping channels).

Now, from the position of the Minister of Infrastructure, forced to engage in quasipolitical battles (on several fronts – “UZ Rail”, USPA, the dismissal of deputy ministers etc.) than the transport activities, it is difficult to overestimate the presence of loyal people on key positions and key enterprises in the industry. Solidity of the team is clearly more important for Volodymyr Omelyan than operation dredging in any sea port. USPA, apparently, was not “in team”, so the issue had to be forced.

Serhiy Lyalikov, “Shipping”

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