Russian container trade escapes doldrums
Ports in Russia's Baltic region, such as St. Petersburg, started off the year well despite nearly two weeks of holidays in January.
Container volumes in Russia’s top port region are poised to increase 15 percent this year and grow their share of the region’s port traffic from 20 percent to more than a third in the coming years.
Russia’s Baltic region in 2016 handled 50 percent of Russia’s container trade, or 2 million 20-foot-equivalent units, an increase of 1.7 percent year-over-year in 2016 as the country’s trade recovers from the dramatic drop in oil prices that defined the last two years as well as economic sanctions.
That slight growth is a radical departure from the 30 percent year-over-year decline in Russian Baltic traffic in 2015. With terminal utilization in the region estimated at about 40 percent, the ports there have ample room to handle growing volumes.
In the case of Big Port of St. Petersburg, by far the largest port in Russia’s Baltic region, container traffic increased 1.8 percent to 1.8 million TEUs, with imports up 4.4 percent.
Boding well for the Russian container trade’s prospects this year is that traffic was up 5 percent year-over-year in January, a month where 11 business days are lost to holidays.
While in recovery mode, Russia’s container trade is still strongly dependent on the domestic economic situation, and most container traffic is for consumer goods, the demand for which remains stagnant because of economic uncertainty, according to Sergey Petlyev, head of Kitaysky Tovar, a Russian distributor of Chinese and Kazakh clothing.
As a result, shippers are hopeful that the changing political climate in Washington and elsewhere will lead to the lifting of some Western economic sanctions and stimulate demand, resulting in further container volume growth, Petlyev said.