Russian 2023 Seaport Cargo Turnover Has Increased by 7.8%.

Posted by Written by Paul Goncharoff

By Paul Goncharoff

We will have to wait awhile for history to judge the economic impact of the massive avalanche (numerically) of group sanctions ever levied against any ostracized country in history. In the meantime, we can assess other available data and allow them to show their own assessment from one point of reference. Rosmorrechflot are Russia’s Federal Agency for Sea and Inland Water Transport, and provide such data.

Much has been said and written about the ebbs and surges of the flow of gas or oil through pipelines, and particularly in the Western media. Road transport is always a good infrastructure indicator, airfreight has wings and speed but volume limitations, while the maritime seaport perspective remains a steady baseline indicator when examining freight volumes.

Using the Rosmorrechflot data we can see that for the past 10 months, (January-October), cargo turnover at Russian seaports increased by 7.8% year-on-year to 749.3 million tons. Dry cargo transshipment increased by 14.7% to 382 million tons. The highest growth rates were seen in grain cargo, chemical and mineral fertilizers, scrap metal, cargo in containers, and cargo on ferries. Bulk cargo transshipment increased by 1.5% to 367.3 million tons, with oil, food, and chemical cargoes growing fastest in that subgroup.

Arctic Ports

Russia’s cargo turnover at its Arctic seaports decreased by 0.2% to 81.8 million tons. Dry cargo handling added 7.7% to 26.2 million tons, while liquid cargo handling decreased by 3.5% to 55.6 million tons. Despite current geopolitical stresses, cargo turnover at Russia’s Baltic seaports (including St.Petersburg) increased by 2.5% to 208.8 million tons. Dry cargo handling increased by 19.9% to 94.8 million tons, while liquid cargo handling decreased by 8% to 114 million tons.

Azov / Black Sea Ports

Despite the Ukraine conflict military operations ongoing in the Azov-Black Sea region, cargo turnover at these ports grew by 17.2% and reached 251.3 million tons. Dry cargo transshipment added 26.2% and reached 122.9 million tons; liquid cargo added 9.8%, amounting to 128.4 million tons.

Caspian Sea Ports

With increasing investor involvement and coordinated national interests in the area, cargo turnover at the Caspian basin seaports, which is a transit port for the North-South international transport corridor (ITC) grew by 36.1% to 6.5 million tons. Dry cargo handling in the basin reached 4 million tons (1.6 times growth), liquid cargo 2.5 million tons (+4.9%).

Pacific Ocean Ports

With closer ties between Russia and the Pacific region, countries, the cargo turnover of Russia’s Far Eastern seaports increased by 5.7% to 200.9 million tons. Dry cargo handling increased by 3.9% to 134.1 million tons, and liquid cargo handling increased by 9.6% to 66.8 million tons. This includes Russia’s Far Eastern freight from its major Vladivostok seaport to China’s east coast ports (including Shanghai, the world’s busiest port by volume) and as far south-west as to India.

Major Russian Seaports

While these numbers reflect January through October, it may very well be, based on my commercial sources, that by the end of 2023, the actual overall increase may come in at 8% or higher.

Looking Ahead

The data reflects the efforts that Moscow has made – and to some extent anticipated – in looking to accelerate the development of existing markets and to look for new ones. In terms of developing existing markets, Russia’s trade with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) countries has increased, although these tend to be serviced by road and rail. Nonetheless, in the case of landlocked Kazakhstan, Russia’s main trade partner in the EAEU, while Russia does service the country from its Caspian ports, there have been discussions to develop rail connectivity direct from the Russian Arctic. China’s Belt & Road Initiative is and will continue to help develop connectivity, not least the trans-Afghan railway which will link landlocked, yet valuable Central Asian markets such as Uzbekistan via rail transiting via Afghanistan and Pakistan to the latter’s Gwadar port in the Arabian sea. The North-South Transport Corridor, which is still being developed to its potential capacity, links Russia’s Caspian seaports via multimodal routes that transit Iran and can deliver goods to the Middle East. Russia has already tested this by shipping freight to Saudi Arabia.

Here, Russia’s membership of organisations such as BRICS, which from January 2024 includes five MENA region nations plus Argentina, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which covers practically all of Eurasia and is expanding into South Asia, are both having a salubrious effect. Numerous new direct shipping routes have also been established over the past 18 months, not least Russia to India, several African nations, and Latin America.

This is indicative that there are enough buyers and sellers globally ready and able to receive and transport goods back to Russia; and are increasing these trade flows even given the current sanctions that the G7 in the main have levied. Global trade, perhaps to the surprise of the West, is not reliant on the West at all. It more than has its own identity, purpose, and an increasingly active trade development space. The lesson to be noted here is that the West is being left behind.

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