• 2017 May 23

    Investors will not be scared away

    The main concern about availability of stevedoring services is associated with the deficit of transshipment facilities for certain cargoes. The issue can be dealt with only through investments into development of the facilities while interference of state authorities just scares away potential investors. To ensure the market balance, free capacity should make 25-30% of total terminal capacity, believes the Ministry of Transport.

    In search of reserves

    The problems related to the access of shippers to port facilities are mostly caused by limited railway, not stevedore infrastructure, as well as the deficit of port facilities for certain cargoes. As Victor Olersky, Deputy Minister of Transport, Head of Rosmorrechflot, said at the meeting of Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP), market is the best regulator: the more free capacity, the higher competition, the lower rates. Therefore, to create a comfortable environment it is necessary to attract investments into new dedicated facilities focused on certain types of cargo instead of scaring the business with fines, inspections and other sanctions. On the other hand, excess of facilities will create problems for stevedores, so a compromise is needed here. According to the Ministry of Transport, optimal reserve of free capacity is 25-30% of the terminal’s full actual capacity. That would balance the interests of ports and shippers.

    As of today, the highest deficit of facilities is seen in the sectors of coal, grain and mineral fertilizers.  To transship those cargoes it is necessary to develop railway approaches and to invest into creation of deepwater and environmentally friendly terminals. That involves considerable funds. In our opinion, the state should encourage such investments giving the priority to the operators that have approved themselves. Among positive examples in the coal sector is the project on expansion of the existing coal facilities at Vostochny Port which enjoys sufficient approaches and experience in handling cargo of high environmental concern.

    In certain regions, containerization is an alternative for some cargoes like mineral fertilizers. Transshipment of mineral fertilizers in containers is conducted at the port of Ust-Luga (Smart Bulk Terminal). Port Bronka has recently tested an innovative container for dry bulk cargo. The advantage of containerization is in broad logistics opportunities for shippers. Besides, this kind of transshipment is environmentally friendly and ensures loading of excessive container facilities. It is clear that containerization is not applicable for large scale transshipment where specialized terminals are required.

    When speaking about container sector, it should be reminded that Federal Antimonopoly Service of Russia (FAS) initiated a case against some container operators. It looks quite strange if we take into consideration the data provided by the Ministry of Transport, according to which the loading of container terminals in Russia is about 50%. Half of container facilities are idle. The best recipe here is not fines but attraction of new players to the market to develop a competitive environment, like that of Bronka in Saint-Petersburg. As for the container flow partially running via the Baltic states’ ports, this is not about stevedoring tariffs, but about customs administration (customs costs). Attempts to reduce the rates for transshipment of containers in Russian ports by administrative instruments will help international container lines, rather than domestic economy.

    Nevertheless, the Ministry of Transport says the last 7-8 years have seen significant progress. The cost of transshipment of one tonne of coal has decreased 3 times since 2009, to $8 per tonne. This proves that development of transshipment facilities is the best way to reduce tariffs without any administrative pressure.

    Speaking about transferring stevedore tariffs into rubles, it should be noted that this issue has a more global significance, related to the departure from the dollarization of the economy. It's no secret that exporters still make calculations in dollars for obvious reasons - the world market is still focused on this currency and this fact will prevail in the foreseeable future. Therefore, the complaints of exporters, those that did not invest in the creation of their own transshipment facilities, on dollar tariffs look misleading. The course to transfer tariffs to rubles is set by a political decision, so it is unlikely that it can be stopped. It is reasonable to think about the binding the tariffs to the price of the product rather than to the exchange rate.

    Currently, as is known, the Rules for non-discriminatory access to port services are being developed. Here, the Ministry of Transport managed to obtain an approval from FAS in respect of the guide line - non-discriminatory access should be provided not to the infrastructure of seaports, but also to their services. In the original version of FAS, the draft Rules for non-discriminatory access covered only infrastructure. In practice, this meant that the terminal built by the investor would not actually belong to it - the investor would have the same access as any other shipper and would bear the burden of its financing and maintenance. Such an approach could put an end to investments in the industry.

    The Ministry of Transport also proposes that the Rules of non-discriminatory access should include a principle based on full capacity of the terminal and reserving part of this capacity for long-term loading. This can be a loading from the resource base of the investor itself or through long-term contracts with bona fide customers. According to Victor Olersky, the positions of the Ministry and FAS have been coordinated in most issues, but now the process of adopting the Rules for non-discriminatory access has been somewhat delayed because of the need to obtain approval from the Eurasian Economic Union (Kazakhstan has its own methodology for calculating free port facilities).

    In general, the business community, represented at RSPP meeting, came to the conclusion about the need for a reasonable regulation of the stevedore market taking into account the interests of all parties. The regulation should not hamper the attraction of investments in the industry, since the development of facilities can create comfortable conditions for shippers.

    Vitaly Chernov