• 2017 April 27

    Strategy game of Saint-Petersburg

    The development of Petrolesport container terminal has been given a status of a strategic project by Saint-Petersburg Administration. However, amid the excessive container facilities the capacity of which is twice as high as even the long-term requirements, this project does not seem to be economically expedient. It is quite possible that the project is focused on the sale of the land for redevelopment.

    No woods, no ports

    Petrolesport, JSC (PLP, Global Ports) is going to invest RUB 4.1 bln to implement the project on modernization and construction of new processing areas to expand annual capacity of its container terminal located on the Volniy and Damba Grebeonka Islands (Kirovsky District of St Petersburg) to 2-2.3 mln TEUs and to ensure handling at least 700,000 t of Ro-Ro cargo per year. The project presented on 17 April 2017 at the meeting of Saint-Petersburg Governor’s Investment Council has been given the status of a strategic project. The project is to be implemented in 2017-2025. The strategic investor is provided with an opportunity  to hold land on lease without a bidding process being conducted, with preferential rental payment for a plot of land provided for construction (up to 1.5% of its cadastral value), as well as an opportunity to buy the assigned plot of land at a reduced price.

    It should be noted that Petrolesport announced its plans on expansion long time ago. Back in 2011, the terminal and FSUE Rosmorport agreed on the development of infrastructure with Petrolesport to invest RUB 28.6 bln into its own development and Rosmorport to inject RUB 4.6 bln into infrastructure.

    Municipal authorities were then skeptical about the project. When speaking at the meeting of St. Petersburg Government’s Maritime Board, Alexei Bakirey, Chairman of the Transportation & Transit Committee, said that the city would not cope with all the port’s cargoes even with the completion of the Western High-Speed Diameter (WHSD). According to Alexei Bakirey, considerable development of stevedoring activities at the Big Port St. Petersburg is possible only at the outer ports on the outskirts of the city.

    Those years saw an intense discussion of the necessity to move port facilities outside the city in the future. In our opinion, it is a right strategy as the city environment should be relieved of road transport and industrial areas, the more so because there is much free and non-developed land around the metropolis.

    Much water has flowed under the bridges since then. The Western High-Speed Diameter has been built and outer port Bronka (MSCC Bronka) has successfully started it operation. Besides, well known geopolitical and economical changes have caused the fall of container traffic and transshipment of Ro-Ro cargo.

    Amid this background, construction of additional facilities, especially within the city boundaries, can hardly be acknowledge as economically reasonable project.  According to the authorities of Big Port St. Petersburg, container throughput of all terminals in Saint-Petersburg and Ust-Luga totaled 1,829,116 TEUs in 2016 while their aggregate capacity is at least 5.5 mln TEUs per year. Their best result was slightly more than 2.5 mln TEUs in some years. With the implementation of the newly announced plans, the capacity of the mentioned terminals will grow to at least 9.6 mln TEUs per year. So, today’s proficit of container facilities in the region is about 3.7 mln TEUs per year with a possibility to grow to 7.8 mln TEUs per year. Even if we assume that container throughput growth to its record high level of the previous years, the proficit of the existing facilities will make 3 mln TEUs per year, that of the expanded facilities – 7.1 mln TEUs per year. In other words, even with the recovery of container flows, the capacity of container facilities will be twice as high as the demand, or will grow enormously if the newly announced plans are put into life. In case of a fantastic scenario, when the ports of the region handle 9 mln TEUs per year, we will see a traffic standstill with WHSD not able to save.

    According to much more realistic scenario, container traffic will grow to about 2 mln TEUs per year in a mid-term period while the competition for containers will be very tough. In our opinion, it is Bronka but not Petrolesport to win that competition due to its geographical location and transport accessibility.

    The sector of Ro-Ro cargoes features even more excessive facilities. Russia’s car market has decreased by almost a half from 2013 while the region has lots of terminals intended for Ro-Ro cargoes – apart from the “old” facilities at the Big Port St. Petersburg, there are huge facilities in Ust-Luga (Yug-2 and Navaya Gavan).

    Therefore, it is quite logical to assume that Petrolesport development plans cover the plan to sell it. Taking into consideration, the above figures, potential investor will hardly buy the terminal in order to develop stevedoring activities. Most probably, it will be a redevelopment project. If our guess is correct, it means that the process of moving stevedoring facilities with poor competitive characteristics outside the city has actually begun. On the other hand, that can mean sporadic rather than comprehensive redevelopment of the city’s historical part and the dream of the citizens about the “garden-city” at the port site is not to come true. Instead of parks, gardens and beautiful embankments facing the gulf we will get more business centers, warehouses, high-rise buildings or chain stores. However, it would be good to use the experience of European port cities which have completed redevelopment of previous port areas. For example, some berths and even port cranes have been preserved in Hamburg (of course, they are in proper condition), there are comfortable cafes and restaurants, bike lanes and promenade areas (last photo).

    Vitaly Chernov