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26 Февраля 2014

RLL Container Report - 26 February 2014

From: John Keir, Ross Learmont Ltd
Email: john.keir@telia.com
Date: 26 February 2014

"It never rains in California, but girl don't they warn you. It pours, man, it pours.".
"It never rains in Southern California". Albert Hammond.

Los Angeles in Southern California is the focal point for a metropolitan area, which is home to 13 million inhabitants, making it the second largest conurbation in the USA after New York. Los Angeles County is also home to some 6 million cars and over 1 million trucks, which have to compete with the 1.26 million teu that each month pass through the sister ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach leading to congestion on the freeways that slice through the metropolis in the Sunshine State. However, as Albert Hammond observed, when it rains in Southern California, it pours down and the whole place comes to a standstill. Coincidentally, the forecast for Los Angeles this Friday, 28February is 68mm of rain.

In order to relieve pressure on the road network, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railways (BNSF) plans to invest USD 500 million in a new rail “dry port” to serve both the container terminals in Los Angeles and Long Beach. These two terminals constitute the largest concentration of distribution warehouses in the USA. Around 40% of American imports pass through the LAX and LB terminals making it the sixth busiest container hub in the world. BNSF plans to rationalise the distribution of containers within the harbour complex by reducing truck transport from the two ports to the distribution centre and from there by double-stack container trains to the 48 contiguous states.

A similar scheme, though on a smaller scale, is planned for a dry port in Ussuriysk, located 90 kilometres north of Vladivostok and the same distance from the Chinese border. Ussuriysk lies on both the main TSR railway and the main highway to Siberia and Moscow. It is also strategically placed to act as a distribution point for all the Far East terminals stretching from Vostochny in the north to Zarubino in the south. Furthermore, Ussuriysk lies in the fertile valley of the Razdolnaya River and is home to several food processing companies active both in the domestic as well as the international markets.

The Far East division of Russian Railways continues to break records, as it reported a 13% rise in container traffic during the first month of the year. Also, the average weight of each container rose to 17.7 tonnes. The port of Vladivostok confirmed this positive start to the New Year by reporting a total throughput of 59,876 teu for January, representing a rise of 8.8% over last year. Import boxes were up by no less than 33% to 28,779 teu but laden exports declined by over half to just 1,143 teu. Empty outbound boxes accounted for no less than 17,311 teu.

Further down the Pacific littoral in China, container terminals processed 16.56 million teu to register an increase of 5.3% for the first month of the year. General cargo returned an even more impressive increase of 7.1% to record a total of 651.8 million tons for January. The importance of rail transport for the future of container traffic can also been seen in inland China, where much of the country`s box traffic now originates. Cargo flows to and from the mega-city of Chongqing grew last year by 12.7% to 974.17million tons. Of these, 806 million moved by truck. As in Los Angeles, the local authorities of Chongqing are looking to rail and barges to relieve pressure on the severely congested road system.

At the other end of the Eurasian continent, trade between Russia and the EU was down by 3.4% to Euro 301.2 Billion in the first eleven months of the year. The situation appears not to have improved if we look at the figures from HaminaKotka, which handled 41,360 teu in January, a drop of 4 percent on the same period last year. Ports in the southern Baltic, however, continue to report improved handling statistics for the month of January. Gdansk leads the field with 98,470 teu, an improvement of 5.5% on 2013.

The Poles were followed by the Lithuanians, who registered an impressive 16.2% increase in box turnover for a monthly total of 35,400 teu. Baltic rivals in Riga and Tallinn recorded small declines in container traffic but the Latvian capital processed 3.23 million tons of general cargo, a 13.2% improvement on the previous year. In February, Riga Bulk Terminal opened the first stage of its Euro 30 million port development which will handle a range of bulk products such as sugar, soya beans and aluminium oxide. In the first year of operation, RTG expects to handle 840,000 tons.

On the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland, Russkaya Troika and PUL Trans are co-operating on the development of container services to and from the Port of Ust-Luga. Since last year, when RT started co-operating with Ust-Luga, they have transported 2,500 teu containing mainly CKD. However, following the downturn in the car market, the two partners may expand their box services to include paper, fertilisers and other cargoes. Last year, Russkaya Troika, which operates 1,674 container platforms, transported some 135,000 teu. Ust-Luga will benefit further from plans by RZD to complete the upgrade of the rail line from St Petersburg to Moscow. Vladimir Yakunin promises to use the financial resources of Russian Railways to raise the average speed of the Sapsan passenger trains to their maximum 250 km. At the same time, container block train would travel on the same line at 160km significantly reducing freight journey times between the two capital cities.

John Keir Ross Learmont Ltd
26 February 2014
Copyright © 2014 John Keir

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