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Results of Russian ports in 2021: infographics and analytics

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Results of Russian ports in 2021: infographics and analytics

IAA PortNews and the Institute for Natural Monopolies Research (IPEM) present jointly developed infographics and analytics on operation of Russian seaports in Q4 and 12M, 2021

In 2021, cargo handling in seaports rose by 1.7%, year-on-year, to 835.2 million tonnes. In the fourth quarter, throughput totaled 213 million tonnes, up 1.7% versus the fourth quarter of 2020. The growth was driven by a favorable situation in the global market amid the recovery of global economies after the COVID-19 pandemic and measures undertaken to prevent its spread.

The growth was registered in many segments although some types of cargo showed negative dynamics. For example, handling of grain in 2021 fell by 15.8% to 42.4 million tonnes with the fall in the fourth quarter having exceeded 33% (as compared with the same period of 2020). The reduction should be attributed to a lower harvest due to unfavorable weather conditions and to introduction of export duties aimed to ensure food security of the country which resulted in redistribution of shipments between export and import markets.

Positive dynamics was seen in exports of oil cargo. In 2020, due to tough lockdowns and OPEC+ agreements, the demand for crude oil and its output plunged and Russia reduced exports of crude oil and oil products by 41% and 32% accordingly (in monetary terms). In 2021, we saw an equally strong recovery ensured by the put-up demand. In its turn, that entailed the growth of oil cargo transportation via seaports: handling of crude oil rose by 1.3%, oil products – by 2.7%.

Handling of coal and coke in 2021 grew by 7.6%, year-on-year, to 202.7 million tonnes. The growth was driven by the favorable global prices. However, in the fourth quarter, their handling decreased by 4.3% which was particularly caused by a high level of cargo base in the end of 2020 while global prices for solid fuel started rising from the second half of 2020. Besides, there was a negative impact of unfavorable weather conditions and restrictions of the railway infrastructure on the routes to the Far East ports. Thus, coal transportation from Khakasia, Buryatia and Tyva to the Far East dropped in 2021 by 40–60%, year-on-year (-10.4 million tonnes). In this context, quotas for transportation from Khakasia, Buryatia and Tyva were brought up to discussion in the beginning of 2022 with a purpose to recover shipments of export coal.

It should be noted that loading of export cargo on the networks of Russian Railways totaled 351.1 million tonnes in 2021 (+5.8%) which is a record-high result. Loading of cargoes bound for all sea basins of the country increased with the highest growth seen on the direction to the southern ports (+17.1%), hence the growth of coal handling in the Azov-Black Sea Basin by 66% in 2021.

Handling of chemical and mineral fertilizers also showed a stable growth. Their shipments rose by 0.4% in 2021 and by 7.7% in the fourth quarter of 2021 owing to a growing demand and, consequently, higher global prices for fertilizers. Ultramar terminal in Ust-Luga which started handling fertilizers at the end of 2021 contributed to the growth.

Handling of containerized cargo rose by 6.1% in 2021. However, handling of containers in ports demonstrated a lower growth as compared with the growth of container transportation by railways. In 2021, container transportation by the network of Russian Railways exceeded 6.5 million TEU, 12.1% more than in 2020. As compared with 2016, container shipments surged almost two-fold.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the related constraining measures had a positive effect on container transportation since the restrictions on the railway transport were lower than those on ports and seaborne transport. Shifting of cargo from sea transport to railways should also be attributed to a considerable growth of freight rates, especially on the China-Europe route. One of popular routes for transportation of containers from China became transit via Far East ports of Russia and then by railway to the ports of the Southern Basin, or directly to Europe. In many cases it was more profitable than a traditional route via the Suez Canal. That lead to a considerable growth of cargo turnover in the ports of the Far East and Southern basins as well as to stagnation at the ports of the Baltic basin.

In 2022, if the market situation is still favorable and there are no tough lockdown restrictions, further growth of cargo handling can be expected in Russian ports. Implementation of large-scale projects, development of the existing facilities, modernization and expansion of railway infrastructure will contribute to the growth.


This is an article contributed by IAA PortNews in conjunction with IPEM on Russian seaports provisional performance results in Q4 and 12 months 2021.

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