2017 June 20
RF Government has approved a programme for construction of ferries to be operated on Ust-Luga – Baltijsk line. However, it is also reasonable to launch a container line between Saint-Petersburg and the Kaliningrad Region to ensure proper links of the mainland Russia with the exclave.
Way to exclave
RF Government has approved a plan on construction of three railway ferries for operation on the Ust-Luga – Baltijsk line. The line currently serviced by two obsolete ferries is intended to take over cargo flows running via the territory of Belarus and Lithuania.
Some experts believe that the demand would be covered if six ferries, not just three ones, are built. Yet, it would be probably better to take a different way, the one from Saint-Petersburg. Railway ferries are multi-functional: they let transport freight, passengers and vehicles. Therefore, some ferries of this kind are necessary. When it comes to cargo logistics, organisation of a container line serviced by dedicated ships, container carriers, is more profitable. Cost of cargo delivery by properly loaded container carriers would be lower as compared with the delivery by railway ferries. Containers are universal – they can be used for transportation of many different cargoes. So, it is widely stated among the experts that it is time to launch a regular container line between the Kaliningrad Region and Saint-Petersburg. Earlier, it was hindered by insufficient infrastructure and deficit of container facilities while today we see an excess of it.
Such a line could meet several challenges: first of all, it will provide a direct access to Saint-Petersburg with its transport and logistics opportunities; secondly, it will let load excessive container facilities and, of course, give an impetus to the economic development of the Kaliningrad Region. Besides, in view of SECAs requirements covering the Baltic Sea, those container carriers would ensure regular demand for LNG under the projects on construction of bunkering centers in the Russian part of the Baltic Sea, which would contribute to breaking the vicious circle of ‘demand – infrastructure’. That container line would become a natural component of a logistics chain for the delivery of cargoes from Russia’s mainland and back by different types of transport without transit via foreign states.
As of today, negotiations about a container line preliminary named ‘Baltic Express’ are being held by the Kaliningrad Region Development Corporation and the management of Multipurpose Sea Cargo Complex Bronka. The project is focused on cargo shipping by internal documents, with reasonable tariffs, within the shortest time and not entering transit states. According to the Corporation, Bronka has a number of advantages like a short access canal allowing for minimization of the time of call, direct link to a ring road and access to a railway station. Attraction of a larger cargo shipper interested in a new way for its product delivery is considered among the methods to launch the project quickly.
Obviously, it is difficult to find finances for construction of new vessels today while creation of a regular feeder container line is more realistic and less expensive, in our opinion, as compared with the plan on construction of a deepwater container hub in the Kaliningrad Region, targeted at handling ocean-going container carriers.