As usual, winter has come to Russia unexpectedly having triggered problems with supply of the rolling stock to ports. First, the problems were discussed in the context of delays in supply of tank cars to oil terminals. Now, it is about open top railcars. Russian Railways traditionally blame it on stevedores which are allegedly slow with heating and unloading of heavy fuel oil and coal. The situation is actually more complicated since it is caused by a number of factors.
When it comes to heavy fuel oil, which, unlike light oil products (excluding light diesel fuel and heavy frost), freezes at temperatures below zero. Heating technologies are cost intensive. Investments into full-scale heating systems are not attractive for stevedores amid the trend towards exports of more light oil products which seems to be a long-term trend taking into account modernization of refineries and the market situation.
As for coal, Russia still has non-specialized terminals where open-top railcars are unloaded with the application of grab equipment. That is not a new subject but the one of the decades. The only solution is to stimulate investors focused on creation of dedicated coal terminals with railcar dumpers, heating and conveying equipment, etc. On the other hand, too slow development of railway approaches to dedicated terminals throws the return on investment into question. Eastern Operating Domain demonstrates it clearly. As of today, its capacity is not sufficient for new dedicated facilities in the Far East Basin.
One of the key problems here is absence of regular supplies of railcars to terminals due to problems of Russian Railways’ internal logistics particularly related to the pandemic implications like possible lock-downs of engine crews amid the infection upsurge.
That is also aggravated by changing logistics with more cargo transported by railways across Russia due to surging cost of deep-sea routes: containers are delivered via the Far East while cargo from the Arkhangelsk Region are transported by railway to China bypassing Saint-Petersburg...
All that lead to the rolling stock deficit and forces Russian Railways undertake infamous measures which finally affect the consignees in Europe.