RLL Container Report - 22 November 2017
From: John Keir, Ross Learmont Ltd. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: 22 November 2017
To the victor belong the spoils.
In September, Russian Railways transported 2.5 million tons of mineral and chemical fertilisers. Domestic deliveries have risen by 6%, while Russian fertiliser exports to China rose by 8%. PhosAgro, one of the world’s leading vertically-integrated, phosphate-based fertiliser producers reported that in the first nine months of the year production rose by 12% to 6.1 million metric tons. Nowadays, most of the fertilisers are transported in Big Bags loaded on conventional rail wagons. Theoretically, at least, this commodity could be transported by containers but now that Ilim has secured most available outbound containers for its exports of pulp and paper to China, there are neither sufficient containers nor rail slots for Russian manufacturers to follow the paper producer’s example and switch wholesale to intermodal transport. Also, it should be noted that by switching to container shipments, Ilim avoids the additional cost of repositioning empty wagons all the way back across Russia. That is in itself incentive enough to abandon rail wagons in favour of an intermodal solution.
Producers such as PhosAgro with large volumes of containerisable products face another hurdle when trying to containerise their exports. The main ports served by the broad gauge network are limited in the size of container carriers they can welcome. The Polish Baltic port of Gdansk can receive vessels such as the OOCL Hong Kong, which has a capacity of 21,413 teu. The ship was christened on 12 May, during a ceremony at Samsung Heavy Industries in Geoje, South Korea. She measures 399.87 metres long and 58.8 metres broad, ranking her among the largest Ultra Large Container Vessels in operation today. Contrast this with the size of box carriers that may call further north in the Baltic. A combination of relatively shallow ports and, of course, the winter ice means that north Baltic ports are served year round by vessels with a capacity of around 8,000 teu.
Other fertiliser producers have invested heavily in specialised rolling stock to transport their bulk products by rail to a wide variety of ports, through which they can serve their global client base. Uralkali delivers its products to the ports of Saint Petersburg, Novorossiysk, Astrakhan, the port of Kavkaz, Kaliningrad, Ust-Luga, Mykolaiv and Reni (both Ukraine), from where bulk vessels distribute fertilisers to all four corners of the globe. Uralkali owns a fleet of 8,000 specialised bulk railwagons, one of the largest fleets in Russia. In addition, Uralkali hires in the rolling stock of major Russian operators in order to secure its product supplies during the high season.
In the world of bulk shipments, such as the fertiliser sector, the leading companies are perfectly happy to adopt new modes of transport, such as the dry cargo or bulk container, in order to provide their clients with the best service available. It is not, therefore, a competition between one mode of transport and another. Rather, it is a case of closely studying the situation and then choosing the best option available to match the client’s requirements.
John Keir, Ross Learmont Ltd.
22 November 2017
Copyright ©, 2017, John Keir