16 Aug 2023 11:12

Container operators calls for equal distribution of quotas for train shipments from Moscow to Far East - paper

MOSCOW. Aug 16 (Interfax) - Container operators in the Moscow transport hub (MTH) have proposed to introduce rules for allocating limits among them for container train shipments eastward similar to those used for coal miners in the Kuznetsk Basin, national daily Kommersant reported on Wednesday.

A draft government resolution was sent to the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) in late July that proposes to amend the rules for non-discriminatory access to railway infrastructure and introduce a method for distributing quotas for container train shipments from the MTH to the Far East similar to the one in effect for companies that export coal from the Kuznetsk Basin via railways running east, the paper said, citing the document.

The paper, citing a source, said that Russian Railways (RZD) began an experiment in February-March that changed the approval system for container trains running from the MTH to the Far East. Approval of shipping requests was made dependent on the handling capacity of container terminals in the MTH. As a result, shipping quotas were concentrated in the hands of the owners of the Moscow area's largest terminals, such as Khorvino and Elektrougli, while the existence of flatcars and container train operators ceased to play a significant role.

Terminals ended up with a large amount of quotas that exceeded availability of trains and they "are reselling them to operators who have flatcars," another market source told the paper.

The proposed method is a compromise between the former and new procedures, Delo Management Company senior vice president for operations and government relations Denis Ilatovsky said. Half of the quotas for the MTH would be distributed among container train operators and half among terminals, who would then agree on the terms of cooperation.

This "will ensure the market nature of cooperation and equal access to railway transport services," Ilatovsky said.

The paper cited a source as saying that the proposed changes apply only to container traffic from the MTH to the Far East, meaning they do not affect other freight traffic on eastern railways. If the mechanism is adopted, it could, if necessary, be expanded to other regions from which containers are shipped, although the ratios there could be different due to regional specifics and the existence of major shippers of container freight, such as forest products, the source said.

RZD said it is involved in discussions regarding the draft document, the paper reported.

Fesco Transportation Group supports the proposal, as it "will make it possible to establish transparent rules on the railway for all transport participants," the group said. "As for specific provisions, we agree with the introduction of ship-or-pay contracts, but on the condition of establishing mutual accountability of railway operators and RZD. We also support the initiative to approve a plan for shipping containers on container trains eastward equally between container terminals and operators," the group said.

Russian container operators association ESP confirmed that it is part of the group working on updating the rules for non-discriminatory access. "Taking into account the rapid growth of the container segment, demand for congested routes is high. We expect the preservation of a priority place for in-demand container freight" in the rules, the ESP said. Given the strong demand for the eastern route, market participants' proposals for a method if intra-group distribution that should maximize the amount of shipped container freight are being discussed, it said.