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6 Сентября 2017

RLL Container Report - 06 September 2017

From: John Keir, Ross Learmont Ltd. Email: john.keir@telia.com Date: 06 September 2017

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

The Russian government confirmed its intention to sell off a 50 percent share in TransContainer. A group of prospective candidates will be invited to an auction, where the highest bid will win. However, even before the parties have had their say, RZD is seeking permission to set up a “TransContainer II”” with rail platforms, terminals and a large fleet of ISO containers of various types. A clear case of “plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose“, I hear the sceptics cry. Small companies have no chance of competing against these intermodal juggernauts. Admittedly, the giants of the container market get the first bite of the cherry but do not despair, that still leaves plenty of rich pickings.

It should be remembered that it was the enterprising Soviet shipping lines, which first adopted the use of ISO refrigerated containers with Northern Shipping Company well ahead of the chasing pack. No sooner had they tested out 20’ and 40’ HC SeaCold units on their main run from Antwerp to Arkhangelsk, than they placed an order for Power Distribution Modules, which allowed them to transported greater volumes of refrigerated cargoes on deck. They were swiftly followed by Murmansk Shipping Company and by Norilsk Nickel, the non-ferrous metal giant located in the remote city of the same name. The first rail operator to adopt Reefer containers was Sojuztransit for their regular services to Japan. MPS (Soviet Railways) kept a close eye on developments but the traditional block trains still had some life in them.

As the rail transport market in Russia and the CIS opens up to greater competition, we should see the major industrial producers in the agriculture, chemical and mining sectors make greater use of intermodal transport in order to cut down their running costs. Indeed, fertiliser producers already make extensive use of Big Bags to transport their goods thousands of kilometres to the ports in the Baltic, Black and Pacific ports, where most of the cargoes are tipped into the holds of bulk vessels ironically by using specially-designed bulk containers. At the same time, the giant chemical sector is making ever greater use of liquid and gas containers to transport hazardous cargoes, while the food industry has adopted ISO tank containers to haul edible oils back and forth across the land.

So, although the rail giants will be given a present, or possibly two of a container fleet, the rest of industry can carry on developing its own intermodal structures to compete with domestic and foreign rivals in the great game, where in the end the smart ones and those more fleet of foot will reign supreme.

John Keir, Ross Learmont Ltd.
06 September 2017

Copyright ©, 2017, John Keir

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