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21 Марта 2018

RLL Container Report - 21 March 2018

From: John Keir, Ross Learmont Ltd. Email: john.keir@telia.com Date: 21 March 2018

“Lift up thine eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest”.

While Kaliningrad seeks to restore the southern Baltic to its former glory, Finland and Norway are setting out to establish the northern Baltic as a new, intermodal corridor. Prior to 1945, Finland had access to the Barents Sea via their northern port at Petsamo sandwiched between Russia and Norway. Now, Oslo and Helsinki plan to finance the construction of a rail line connecting Oulu and Rovaniemi to the Norwegian ice-free port of Kirkenes on the Arctic Sea. Business interests in both the Scandinavian countries eye new opportunities to exploit the mineral riches in the far north, which are currently deprived of an economic and efficient means of transporting the exports to markets around the globe. The major attraction of the port of Kirkenes is the access it gives mineral exports to not only the West but also to the Far East.

The Northeast Passage via Russia’s arctic waters would lead Finnish mineral exports to the large and rapidly expanding markets of China and beyond. The price to Finland for membership to this passage is the construction of a 750 km railway from Oulu via Rovaniemi to Kirkenes in northern Norway, which is estimated to cost Euro 2.9 billion with Finland paying the lion’s share. This is not the first such rail line to be built in the far north of Scandinavia. Already in 1903, the Norwegians and Swedes constructed a line running from the iron ore mines in Kiruna to the Norwegian port of Narvik. The “Iron Ore Line” is a single-track, electrified railway with a permitted axle load of 30 metric tons. Currently, the Swedish part of the line is the northernmost railway in Sweden and the Norwegian section outside Narvik is at 68.452°N the northernmost railway in the whole of Western Europe.

While environmentalists bemoan the melting of the ice in the Arctic, commercial interests are warming to the opportunities as the waters north of mainland Russia open up in the summer months. The Northeast Passage is being promoted by business and political leaders in Kirkenes, who would view the construction of the rail line from Finland as a major breakthrough in opening up the north of Scandinavia to the global economy. The same commercial logic applies to the nickel deposits in Norilsk and the gas and petrol deposits in Eastern Siberia. Technology means that the natural resources of the North will no longer be at a major commercial disadvantage to competitors in other parts of the globe.

In addition to minerals, the proposed line could transport both processed and unprocessed timber products. Moving in the other direction, the railway could distribute a rich harvest of fish products from the Barents Sea all the way down to the capital, Helsinki.

John Keir, Ross Learmont Ltd.
21 March 2018

Copyright ©, 2018, John Keir

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