A shortage of containers for exports from Russia has become a serious worry for both lines and shippers in the recent months. Russian empties are on the agenda of European HQ. SeaNews has asker major market players to comment on the situation.
The shortage is at its worst in St. Petersburg. Here, even ro-ro operators are aware of the problem. According to Denis Negodaev, MD, Transfennica Russia, they receive requests from container lines for organizing export schemes due to the lack of equipment.
Other cities like Moscow, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, and Novorossiysk are also facing the deficit. The situation in the Far East is more or less table.
The shortage has logically led to higher tariffs, exports rates are growing every month. And the trend is likely to continue in the near future. The reason underlying this new reality is the declining Russian imports coupled with the growing exports. “It occurs in parallel to deterioration depreciation of euro, which has led to an anomalous sharp growth in container exports from North European ports in Q1 and Q2, 2015. So those markets are also experiencing empties deficit, which put additional pressure on the supply in St. Petersburg”, comments Anton Nazarov, Director, MSC Rus.
According to Denis Guznyaev, Import Sales Manager Arkas Russia, empties deficit is hampering container exports growth. The shortage is due to a sharp decline in container imports, which makes 25% on the average and up to 45% for some equipment types. At times, the deficit gets worse due to currency fluctuations and makes lines position empties to Novorossiysk from other ports.
Until recently, export market in the North-West was depressed as supply was twice as big as demand. So exports tariffs were not commercially based, the aim was to evacuate empties. “Now the tariffs are nearing the level of sustainability, so supply is likely to start growing, too”, says A.Nazarov. He believes the trend is a long-term one, and the near-balance between imports and exports will continue during the year, and maybe even in 2016. A.Nazarov suggests exporters should use the same mechanisms to provide for their logistics as importers do, by concluding long-term freight contracts based on mutual guarantees, when the carrier commits to provide containers and slots, and the shipper guarantees a minimum freight volume of cargo in a certain time period.
“The problem is, the shippers are used to low exports tariffs, and even as the ruble has fallen claim they are not ready to pay for container repositioning”, says D.Guznyaev. However, shippers with large long-term contracts find payment for repositioning quite normal. The situation makes lines to be more strict about control over the equipment and more flexible about distribution of containers.
“Evidently, exporters will choose those ports and those carriers, which can offer empty containers at best tariff rates. The worsening shortage of empties has already led to an increase in tariff for some destinations and some cargo types”, says Andrey Naraevsky, Director Liner and Business Development, Ruscon.
Still, not all lines have problems with empties. Thus, Samskip has a balance between export and import boxes in the Russian trade, according to Samskip St. Petersburg Deputy MD Alexandra Kontrovskaya.