RLL Container Report – 22 January 2014
“The best laid schemes of mice and men /
Несмотря на блестящие схемы мышей и мужчин”.
As the venerable poet noted, schemes both great and small have a nasty habit of going wrong. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal and it had been planned to open later this year the upgraded transport artery, capable of accepting 12,000 teu vessels. This represents a major improvement on the 5,000 teu vessels which currently traverse from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea. Faced with a USD 1.6 Billion over-run, however, the main Spanish contractor gave the Panama Canal Authority an ultimatum to come up with the funds otherwise it will stop work on the expansion plans. Construction is already nine months behind schedule and more and more Post-Panama vessels are being delivered every month. In the meantime, Nicaragua’s ambitious plan to construct a rival to the Panama Canal has encountered problems. The USD 40 Billion project is delayed by at least one year as the Nicaraguan government and the Chinese investors continue discussions on the proposed route.
Meanwhile in Northern Russia, construction of the Northern Latitudinal Railway (Северный широтный ход) has been postponed. The 700 km long railway will connect the Northern and Sverdlovsk railways via a bridge over the River Ob – a major undertaking in itself – and will pass by large gas condensate deposits in the Yamal region as it heads eastwards towards the River Yenisei. Further East, Yakutia has encountered problems with the passenger service to Nizhny Bestyakh, the nearest station to the capital, Yakutsk. Although the passenger station at Nizhny Bestyakh was opened in August of last year, the good citizens of Yakutsk may have to wait another few months to purchase a ticket, as the line will only be carrying freight most probably until early 2015.
Plans are being drawn up to construct a port complex opposite the existing facility in Murmansk costing USD 1.23 Billion. The complex includes deep-sea terminals for containers, coal and oil connected to the main line by a new 46-km railway across the Kola Bay. By the time the three-phase project is completed in 2020, the new port facility will be handling up to 18 million tons per annum. It is planned that the new Murmansk port will be connected to the proposed Belkomur Line, which will also link Arkhangelsk to Siberia and China.
While they await a final decision, proponents of the Belkomur Line received a welcome boost from two old allies In Canada and Britain. The Quebec government has given the go-ahead to a new super-port to be constructed at the Strait of Canso, Nova Scotia, which served as the main departure point for Allied convoys to Russia in two world wars. Maher Melford Terminal is developing a 315-acre container terminal and intermodal rail facility. The terminal will be located on a 14,000 acre industrial reserve by the Strait of Canso, Nova Scotia.
Strategically situated on the great circle route, Maher Melford will be the closest east coast port to Europe and Asia via the Suez Canal. With zero air draft restrictions, ice-free and navigational water depth exceeding 18 metres at the berth, the terminal will be one of the few North American East Coast ports capable of handling the world’s largest current and forecasted containerships. Shippers will be able efficiently and cost-effectively to move containerised goods to major urban centres throughout the U.S. and Canada by using the extensive rail and highway networks radiating from the Nova Scotia port.
Further support for the Belkomur project came from the Orkneys Islands, which have plans to re-activate the former Royal Navy base at Scapa Flow as a container terminal serving North Sea and North Atlantic ports. The Orcadians intend to use former container vessels equipped with container cranes as floating terminals allowing a quick, efficient and relatively inexpensive interchange between container vessels serving ports in the Northern waters. The Scapa Flow project offers other advantages for intermodal clients. Remarkably, just a short ferry ride away on the Scottish mainland is the most north-easterly rail container terminal on the UK rail network with connections via the Channel Tunnel to all European destinations.
And if all this was not reason enough to visit Scapa Flow, then the Orcadians have another Unique Selling Feature up their sleeve. Two of Scotland’s leading malt whisky distilleries are within walking distance of the Scapa Container Terminal. Highland Park and Scapa distilleries welcome visitors from all four corners of the globe to sample their prize-winning malts. Container vessels from partner ports in Canada and Northern Russia will find a warm welcome at Europe’s newest container hub, conveniently located on the route between Nova Scotia, Arkhangelsk and China.
Ross Learmont Ltd
22 January 2014
Copyright © 2014 John Keir