RLL Container Report - 26 March 2014
From: John Keir, Ross Learmont Ltd
Date: 12 March 2014
Zonder liefde warme liefde
Lijdt het licht het donk're licht
En schuurt het zand over mijn land
Mijn platte land mijn Vlaanderland.
"Marieke" by Jacques Brel
The Port of Antwerp in Flanders is busily upgrading rail connections between Europe’s second largest port and its prime customer base in the region of North Rhine-Westphalia. Of the 190 million tons, which passed through the port last year, 102 million tons were transported in containers. A new tunnel, which opens in September, will offer a second rail link between the left and the right bank of the Scheldt and will increase capacity to 109 trains per day. At the same time, the line south via Aachen and Monchengladbach is being improved as part of a wider scheme to give quicker transit times on the main transport route as far as Vienna.
In the first week of March in neighbouring Holland, Herik Rail Cargo launched its intermodal service from the port of Amsterdam south via the Rhine valley and Switzerland to Milan. The 450m-long train carries dry containers, tank containers and swap bodies, covering the 1,000 km route in a mere 21 hours. Speed is an important consideration for the train’s base cargoes of pharmaceuticals, electronics, fresh produce such as fish, as well as cut flowers from the world’s biggest flower auction at Aalsmeer. Polish rail operator, Ercontrans will launch a new block train service from the Baltic Port of Gdansk south to the company’s intermodal hub at Stryków in central Poland. Now the largest container port east of Gothenburg, Gdansk handled 106,288 teu in February, representing an increase of 14.7% on the previous year.
Estonian rail operator, Baltic Rail offers a regular container block train service from the southern Polish city of Wroclaw down to the Slovenian port of Koper. Normal goods trains face length and weight restrictions on the route, which is currently being upgraded to improve upon the journey time of 38 hours. However, this does not unduly affect the Baltic Rail service which carries only containers, including special equipment to transport steel coils from Koper to factories in Poland. This summer, Viking Container plans to test a new train service from Lithuania to Turkey. The line will head south on the old trade route via Belarus, Ukraine and Romania and on to the former capital of Byzantium (now known as Istanbul). The ultimate aim is to offer a container service all the way from Scandinavia south via Lithuania and on to the warm waters of the Bosphorus.
Fosagro plans to build a dedicated container terminal at Ust-Luga to handle 1.5 million tons of cargo per annum. The project will cost USD 15 million, which is less than other fertiliser terminals in the region. Fosagro explains that by fully containerising the transport chain from the mine to the end user, they eliminate the need for expensive interim storage and additional handlings.
Down on the Iberian peninsula, the Spanish government plans to attract private investment for its cargo subsidiary, Renfe at the same time as opening up the freight market to greater competition. Together with their neighbours in Portugal, Spanish railways have again taken up a project to build a high-speed, standard-gauge railway from Lisbon and Southern Spain via Madrid and Barcelona to the French border, where it will connect with the European rail network. As well as opening up the Spanish resorts to ever more tourists from Northern Europe, the new lines will give access to Spanish and Portuguese container ports, which lie close to the main routes for the 18,000 teu vessels serving the trades routes to and from Asia and North America.
MacAndrews, a subsidiary of the CMA CGM Group, purchased a 25% share in Progeco Bilbao, a Spanish logistics and warehousing company. Previously, MacAndrews had also acquired a shareholding in a rail freight terminal in Murcia, a short distance from the Mediterranean ports of Cartagena and Alicante. The company then launched a twice-weekly reefer container block train, which connects Murcia with its northbound ScanBaltic service via the port of Bilbao to Helsingborg, Gdynia, Teesport and Thamesport.
As Europe’s economy starts to pick up, so car sales rose for the sixth month in a row. In February, 894,730 vehicles were sold, marking a 7.6% improvement on 2013. Germany led the way with 209,340, while Russia took second place with 196,000. In January, car imports into Russia were down by 7.3% to 45,600 vehicles, as local manufacturers continued to roll out new models. The best-performing market was Kazakhstan with 10,851 – a 16.7% improvement on last year´s total. The automotive industry makes great use of intermodal services to supply its global clientele. Dynamar calculates that the global refrigerated container fleet now stands at 2.3 million teu, which is four and half times greater than conventional reefer tonnage. Lease rates are also tumbling with the average daily rate for a 40’ high cube refrigerated container as low as USD 4.50 on a 5-year long-term operating lease. Maersk Container Industry forecasts that reefer volumes will grow by four to five per cent this year. Consequently, manufacturers will increase production by 9% which will exceed last year’s production total of 110,000 reefer teu by an additional 10,000 teu.
In the rush to containerise all possible types of cargo, it is often forgotten that a container vessel is also an ideal means of transporting large and heavy items. On March 16, the world’s largest ship propeller was loaded on to a container ship in the Port of Hamburg. The giant propeller, weighing 113 metric tons and measuring over 10 metres in diameter, was lifted from a pontoon on to the “Hyundai Together”, a 13,000 teu container vessel. Rather appropriately, the propeller will be fitted to an 18,000 teu vessel being built at a yard in Korea. Another five propellers will be shipped to Korea in the coming months. Normally, such a large and heavy object is laid on to a temporary deck formed by flat rack containers, thus evenly distributing the weight over a large surface area.
John Keir Ross Learmont Ltd
26 March 2014
Copyright © 2014 John Keir