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2022 June 23

Existing fleet to supply a Russian exclave

Credit: SMP / the MV Kholmogory

A ban imposed on some goods transit through Lithuania to the Kaliningrad region and the tensions that ensued were not followed by any measures to significantly increase seaborne traffic to the Russian exclave. The fleet that operates on ferry route from Ust-Luga is currently enough, the Ministry of Transport has said. At the end of June, the Northern Shipping Company owned universal dry cargo carrier will be added to four vessels operated by Rosmorport and Oboronlogistics. By September the capacity of the ferry service will be increased again. According to experts, the shipping route may require deployment of six to twelve container ships to transport part of the seaborne cargo on the route.

There are four ships currently plying on the Ust-Luga – Baltiysk route. This includes three train ferries and the RoRo/LoLo Ursa Major owned and operated by Oboronlogistics. The ship was designed for transportation Ro-Ro, break-bulk and containers, the Ministry of Transport said yesterday. Starting from June 26, according to PortNews, the MV Kholmogory, a universal dry cargo ship of Northern Shipping Company will be deployed on the route between the Port of Bronka in St. Petersburg and the Kaliningrad region.

Credit: Rosmorport / the ferry Marshal Rokossovsky

“Actually, Russia has sufficient capabilities to supply the Kaliningrad region with the necessary resources and goods by sea transport,” the Ministry of Transport noted. There are three ferries plying on the Ust-Luga-Baltiysk line: the Ambal, the Baltiysk and the Marshal Rokossovsky. In May 2022, the Ro-Ro/Lo-Lo vessel Ursa Major entered service on the route. The latter is designed to transport Ro-Ro and general cargo, including semi-trailer trucks, containers and refrigerated containers.

Yet another ferry, the General Chernyakhovsky which currently under construction and is completed by 98.15%, will be delivered and enter service on the line in September 2022, Sergey Pylin, Director General, Rosmorport, told PortNews at SPIEF 25.

As a result, by this autumn the sea-going fleet to service the route to  Kaliningrad region will be expanded to six vessels. According to the information posted on Northern Shipping Company website, the Kholmogory dry cargo ship was built in 1995 and was operated on the company's line service through the ports of Arkhangelsk and St. Petersburg. The vessel was shipping cargo and containers to the major European ports of Antwerp, Rotterdam, Hamburg, Le Havre. Liner vessels of NSC were designed for transportation of 20- and 40-foot containers, refrigerated containers, oversized cargo. The Kholmogory capacity is 370 TEUs. The company owns the same class vessel, the Mikhail Lomonosov.

Anton Alikhanov, the Kaliningrad region governor previously has said that on June 17 Lithuanian Railways notified the Kaliningrad Railway that as of June 18 they would stop transiting a large list of goods to / from the Kaliningrad region that are subject to European sanctions. The regional official commented that according to preliminary estimates, this concerns 40% to 50% of the entire range of transit cargo. These are building materials, cement, metals and other goods.

Photo credit Novotrans

Some experts interviewed by PortNews noted that the ferries are transporting between Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg primarily oil products cargo (fuel oil, diesel fuel), consumer goods, RoRo cargo and construction equipment. In addition to food cargo, machinery, containerized and break-bulk cargo, the ferries are today transporting on the route flax, bagasse, cake, and agricultural peat.

In 2021, cargo volume handled at the ferry complex in the Port of Ust-Luga increased by 9.2% to 1.2 million tonnes (in 2018, the traffic volume on the route did not exceed 900 000 tonnes). The volume includes over 13 600 loaded railroad cars, about 9 000 Ro-Ro units. During the year, the ferry terminal received and handled 218 ships.

Ferries transported on the Ust-Luga - Baltiysk route about 360 000 tonnes of cargo in the firs quarter of 2022. The volume included more than 4 100 railway cars, about 2 200 units of Ro-Ro cargo. Compared to the same period in 2021 the seaborne traffic jumped by 85%.

Oboronlogistics told PortNews that the dry cargo carrier Ursa Major, unlike ferries (loading reaches 90% of capacity), is loaded only by 10% of capacity (designed to carry up to 450 containers).

According to the strategy of Rosmorport for the development of Russia’s sea port infrastructure until 2030, the total cargo throughput at the Port of Kaliningrad (including the Port of Baltiysk) can reach 33.9 million tonnes per year by 2030 (in 2021 - 10.6 million tonnes).

The issue of launching of a container line between St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad has been discussed for more than a year. In 2018, Bronka port, RIX Shipmanagement LLC, Sovfracht Shipping, as well as local consignors - Commonwealth, Avtotor - Terminal, Miratorg, Baltic Tobacco Factory, Delovye Linii Group, Ecopolymers.

At the same time, transportation company Caspiko’s assessment showed that the cost of seaborne traffic on the St. Petersburg to Kaliningrad route (transit goods declaration is not required) has soared about 40% due to the high cost of the ferry service.

Alexei Bezborodov, head of the Infranews analytics told that five-month cargo volume ingoing to Kaliningrad declined 13% on Jan-May 2021 to 3.496 million tonnes. The volume included coal exported through the Port of Kaliningrad - 828 000 tonnes (-46%), oil products 724 000 tonnes (+13%), grain – 442 000 tonnes (-6%), ferrous metals 300 000 tonnes (-9 %), building materials 407 000 tonnes (+174%), cement – 234 000 tonnes (+7%), fertilizers 101 000 tonnes (-11%), food commodities – 81 000 tonnes (+6%). In Jan-May outgoing volume from Kaliningrad to Russia - 960 000 tonnes (+1%), of which 615 600 tonnes of cake (soy production waste) + 23%, cars 59 000 tonnes (-54%), chemicals 62.7 000 tonnes (-38%), grain 74 000 tonnes (+19%), other food – 56 500 tonnes (-12%). Overall, the five-month volume included 1.94 million tonnes (+ 7%) with destinations to the Kaliningrad region and back, excluding coal and oil products. The record monthly volume excluding coal and oil products (765 000 tonnes) was reported in December 2021.

“If it will be containerized, this volume be about 63 000 TEU. If we take a container ship with a capacity of 685 TEU as a small size, then 93 voyages are needed to transport such a volume. Taking into account the need to make a round trip in 4-5 days, at least 12 container ships of such capacity will be required. For less busy months, at least 8 container ships need to be deployed. Taking into account that some part of the cargo can be carried by a conventional fleet, and no more than 70% of the volume will be containerized, we can talk about a maximum of six container ships,” the expert believes.