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29 Января 2014

RLL Container Report – 29 January 2014

From: John Keir, Ross Learmont Ltd
Email: john.keir@telia.com
: 29 January 2014

The Baltic Sea - Back to the Future

In the first 11 months of 2013, container traffic in China rose by 7.3 % to 173 million teu, of which 155 million passed through Chinese seaports. By November, the monthly throughput at all ports had risen to 14.7 million teu, a large proportion of which is destined for Europe. To cope with the upsurge in container traffic, ports in the Baltic region are investing heavily in upgrading terminal facilities. By the end of 2013, container capacity at the BSC Terminal in Kaliningrad will have been expanded to 260,000 teu. A second phase of expansion will increase total annual capacity at the Russian Baltic port to 400,000 teu. To serve the growing traffic via the south Baltic port, Unifeeder announced it will call at Kaliningrad on its services from Hamburg and Bremerhaven.

In neighbouring Poland, a quarrel has broken out between the two leading container ports of Gdynia and Gdansk. Gdynia is upset that their rivals are determined to press ahead with a planned extension that will raise box throughput from its current level of 1.5 m to 2.5 million teu. In response, Gdansk questions Gdynia’s plans to deepen its harbour entrance channel as well as to build a new manoeuvring area in order to take Post-Panamax vessels of up to 13,000 TEU. Gdynia's Baltic Container Terminal is also investing USD 51 million in cargo handling equipment and in improving rail facilities. The race for the title of Top Dog among Poland’s ports is well and truly on.

Next door in Germany, the port of Rostock is taking advantage of the excellent DB rail network to offer a fast block train connection from the Baltic Sea to Southern Europe. DB Schenker has set up a new, direct, combined train service between the North German port and Domodossola in northern Italy, from where cargo can be distributed to Milan, Turin, Genoa and other major cities. Together with their Swiss colleagues, European railways are investing heavily in upgrading trans-Alpine routes to allow trains to travel at up to 200 km per hour, which will put Baltic ports within a day’s journey of Southern Europe.

On the opposite shore of the Baltic Sea from Rostock, Sweden is upgrading container capacity at the port of Karlshamn. The objective is to increase the share of intermodal transport on the “Baltic Motorways of the Seas” link via Klaipeda by enabling far larger vessels to call at the South Swedish gateway port. Currently, intermodal traffic makes up only 18% of the traffic on this route but this figure is projected to rise first to 56% in 2015 and to 71% in 2025. Box traffic in the Gulf of Finland is also on the up: during the first eleven months of the year, Ust-Luga processed 47,808 teu, representing a five-fold increase in container throughput. At the same time, the port handled 51 million tons of bulk and general cargo, including oil and coal.

The three Baltic east coast container terminals reported improved throughput figures for 2013:












Competition among the ports remains as stiff as ever and the two main container operators in Latvia and Lithuania are expanding both their terminal facilities and their rail services. Latvia plans to act as a major distribution centre for cargoes between China and Europe. Latvian Railways will present its concept in the first quarter of the New Year. Meanwhile, MSC will establish a large inland container facility at Vilnius Intermodal Terminal (VIT) with an initial throughput of 100 teu per week. VIT is being built near Vaidotai railway station, from which the container trains Vikingas, Sestokai Express, Saule and Merkurijus are already offering block train services. The budget for Vilnius Intermodal Terminal is Euro 32 million with some 85% of the cost being covered by the EU Cohesion Fund. It is estimated that the project's return will amount to more than Euro 107 million.

After completion of the expansion at Klaipeda, the port will be able to process container ships of up to 11,500 teu. The initiative is part of a plan to establish the terminal as a transshipment centre for Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) with an annual container handling capacity of 800,000 teu. At the same time, the port has recently increased the berth length at Klaipeda Container Terminal by over 40% to 780 metres and deepened its approach channel to 14.5 metres.

Why, you may be asking, is the Baltic Sea witnessing such a rapid increase in container traffic? As we enter the New Year, we mark a century of military and political conflict that divided the region between East and West. Slowly but surely, as Europe resolves its differences and in the process ushers in a period of peace and prosperity, the Baltic region is shifting back to the future. The centre of economic and political power in Europe is moving north and east and with this seismic shift the Baltic Sea is regaining its historical role as a major trading hub. The current investments being made in upgrading terminals round the Baltic are just the beginning of a major realignment of the intermodal infrastructure of the region.

John Keir,
Ross Learmont Ltd
29 January 2014

Copyright © 2014 John Keir

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