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27 Ноября 2013

RLL Container Report – 27 November 2013.

From: John Keir, Ross Learmont Ltd Email: john.keir@teia.com
Date: 27 November 2013

Would you like to swing on a star?  Carry moonbeams home in a jar 
And be better off than you are 
Or would you rather be a mule?

“Swinging on a star” sung by Frank Sinatra

In the first ten months of this year, container throughput at the port of Los Angeles fell by 5.43% to 6.53 million teu. At the same time, however, the neighbouring Port of Long Beach handled 5.58 million teu to record a highly creditable 13.3% rise in box handling. Clearly, fierce  local competition does not hinder the development of container traffic. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Pacific, the two local rivals, Vladivostok and Vostochny notched up a combined 16.4% hike in box throughput. So far this year, imports through the two rival ports amounted to 436,000 teu – a rise of 14.4%. At 79,000 teu, transit cargoes were up by over one third, while cabotage rose by oneeighth to 393,000 teu.

Equally, local rivalry among ports in the Baltic is also proving good for the box business. In the same week that Klaipeda opened a new USD 6.4 million container pier, Kaliningrad Railways inaugurated a new container block train service carrying chemical products from the local Alko-Nafta plant to the Moscow Region. The new block train, which is operated in conjunction with TransContainer, is made up of 57 platforms carrying up to 82 x 20’ units. At the same time, Lithuanian Railways announced the launch of their “Baltic Wind” container service from Vilnius to Kostanaj in Kazakhstan. It is expected that the service will operate two to three times per month offering slots to this important centre for car assembly in Kazakhstan.

News that Mearsk has taken delivery of yet another 18,000 teu behemoth might send shivers down the spine of the good folks in Hamburg. The Maribo Maersk is the fifth in a series of 20 such titans of the sea to be delivered from the DMSE yard in Korea. As with her sister ships, the Maribo will call at the Polish port of Gdansk rather than at the port down the Elbe. Feeder lines from Hamburg offer a comprehensive service to ports in the Baltic. Indeed, the traffic to the “East Sea”, as Germans refer to the Baltic, constitutes 42% of the Hansa port’s annual turnover of 7 million teu. Box traffic via the German port is up 3.6% so far this year, thanks in part to a steady improvement in trade to and from Far East ports.

Another company competing with the Maersk Triple-E vessels is the block train service from Chengdu in Central China to Łódź in Poland – or, rather, the service back from Łódź to Chengdu. There appears to be no problem in attracting high value products from China to Poland. SeaNews reports that the West-bound containers are stuffed full of Dell notebooks and other electronic goodies. Since its introduction in April, the train has carried almost 2,000 teu. For the first time ever, the train carried cargo with a total value in excess of USD 10 million. Canvassing cargo on the backhaul route, however, is hampered by two competitors: the first is the Maersk service via Gdansk and the second comes in the form of rival rail operators. 

The Port of Gdansk now acts like a huge vacuum cleaner sucking up all boxes over an ever wider radius. Łódź is only 350 km from the port and the Polish government is investing heavily in upgrading the A1 motorway that runs directly south from Gdansk to Łódź and on to the industrial regions in the south of the country. While Lodz can offer a train service to Central China, the port offers services to any destination on all continents. If Łódź tries to extend its canvassing area to include Germany then they are encroaching on the “terra nostra” inhabited by the big beast of the European railway jungle, namely Deutsche Bahn. 

Head south into the Czech and Slovak lands and there they encounter RZD, which has plans to extend the broad-gauge rail system right to the outskirts of Vienna by means of a rail terminus in the former suburb of Pressburg, now more commonly known as Bratislava. If you look at projected EU transport investment, you will see that the area round Bratislava and Vienna is developing into a major integrated transport hub. Indeed, the Russian, Kazakh and Belarus railways may build a chain of container terminals in this part of Central Europe in order to attract more cargo to their intermodal rail services extending across the Eurasian continent. Rail operators on the TSR routes  to Łódź and beyond may be put under further pressure if shipping lines convert from oil to more efficient gas-driven engines. Experts calculate that such a shift could save USD 10 per teu on each sailing.

Now, I am sure you are wondering what Frankie Boy has got to do with this. Well, for such a short, monosyllabic noun, Łódź causes no end of problems for English speakers and most non-Poles. For one of the best attempts at pronouncing the name, listen to the introduction of Sinatra’s rendition of “Swinging on a star”. Born and raised in cultural melting pot of Hoboken, New Jersey, Frank Sinatra never lost his Jersey accent and the opening “would y..” is about as close as Anglo-Saxons get to the Polish pronunciation of Łódź.

John Keir
Ross Learmont Ltd
27 November 2013
Email: john.keir@telia.com

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