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25 Декабря 2013

RLL Container Report – 25 December 2013

From: John Keir, Ross Learmont Ltd 
Email: john.keir@teia.com
Date: 25 December 2013

Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Let your heart be light.
From now on our troubles will be out of sight.

“Have yourself a merry little Christmas” – by Judy Garland

Rising global living standards have resulted in an increased demand for US corn (maize) and soya meal used to feed cattle and other livestock. Corn sales in the week  ending October 3 hit their highest point in nearly three months, as a record American harvest dragged down prices while soya sales were at their highest since 1990. In China, high domestic corn prices also bolstered demand for US supplies, resulting in a million tons being exported to Chinese ports in just one month. Such figures help to explain the rush to upgrade container facilities in Oakland and the Mid-West to take advantage of this shift in demand for food products.

The ripple effects are also being felt in Russia. Cargill, the leading American grain trader moved quickly to acquire a 25% share in the KSK terminal in Novorossiysk, which is controlled by DeloPorts. With an annual capacity of 3.5 million tons, KSK is Cargill’s second major investment this year in South Russia. In September, the American company began construction of a USD 200 million sunflower oil crushing plant in the Volgograd Region with a capacity of 640,000 tons per annum. These Russian acquisitions add to Cargill’s global network of grain and port facilities, including a joint venture in the Romanian port of Constanta on the western shore of the Black Sea.

No sooner had Cargill completed these acquisitions than one of Russia’s biggest grain transporters, RTK signalled its intention to sell off its container division, A-Trans. Currently, A-Trans operates 5,800 items of rolling stock, 4.500 of which are container platforms. That puts A-Trans in third place among the container operators, behind TransContainer and Summa. Clearly, A-Trans is an attractive target for anyone wishing to diversify into the fast-growing container sector. 

Among the “usual suspects” being touted as potential suitors are GlobalPorts and Summa. The former operates large container ports in the East and West of Russia as well as Finland, while the latter has designs on increasing its existing share of the intermodal market. Although there is a clear logic for either company to part with the USD120-150 million being touted as the price to be paid, there is probably a greater incentive for GlobalPorts to seize the initiative in order to acquire a major domestic box operator. Summa, on the other hand, can simply continue to grow its well-established intermodal division centred round the Fesco name.

However, this might be one contest where both parties could emerge as winners. Clearly, the “foodgrade market” is growing fast and could accommodate two specialised intermodal operators. Whichever party misses out on the first prize would have funds available to invest in a new fleet of equipment. The arguments in favour of this approach can be summed up as follows:
  • Tthe current cost of a new unit from a Chinese factory is not far off the price of a second-hand unit in Russia.
  • The new fleet of containers could be marketed to prospective clients as guaranteed “foodgrade”, an important consideration for any exporter of cereals, pulses, rice and other food products.
  • There would be funds left over to a small fleet of foodgrade tank containers.
Hey presto - you have the answer to every food manufacturer’s logistical problems. 

Finland is blessed with an abundance of mineral resources but also with a logistical headache. Lapland has rich ore-deposits and new mines are already under development 150 kilometres north of Rovaniemi. From Rovaniemi to the Norwegian Arctic port of Kirkenes is a distance of 520 kilometres and a railway link to the Norwegian port will cost Euro 3.2 Billion. Even making the relatively short rail connection from Rovaniemi to the new mining area around Sondankylä will cost Euro 350 million. The alternative is to extend the existing rail line from Salla in  Eastern Finland to connect up with the Russian mainline leading to the ice-free port of Murmansk.

As the Finns ponder which route to take from Rovaniemi, Russian tour operators have their sights firmly fixed on the Northern Finnish town and legendry home of Santa Claus. Charter trains will travel all the way north from Moscow and StPetersburg to Rovaniemi, which is also the centre of Finland’s rapidly developing winter tourism.

Wherever you choose to celebrate, have yourself a merry little Christmas.

John Keir
Ross Learmont Ltd
25 December 2013
Email: john.keir@telia.com

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