Russia In WTO – Opportunities For Rotterdam
By Anuja Abraham
On Wednesday 22 August, Russia will have joined the World Trade Organization as 156th country. It is the last large economy to join the WTO, ten years after China. China’s joining resulted in a huge increase in world trade, shipping and the port sector, and caused price rises in shipping transport and capacity shortages in ports. Given the economic stagnation in Europe and the capacity that is currently available, a possible increase in Russian imports and exports will be easier to accommodate. Another difference with then is that China imports large quantities of raw materials and exports consumer products. Russia is the mirror image, and in theory that should provide more opportunities for European industry. Foreign investments in Russia are also picking up due to Russia’s mineral riches and energy industry. Alexander Lukashevich, spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that Russia’s joining was ‘the meagre good news during the current international economic instability’.
Rotterdam is the most important port for the Russian export of raw materials. The volume transported via the port of Rotterdam, especially in liquid cargo, has grown considerably in the past years. Many recent investments in the port area are related to the Russian market and Russia’s joining. The future Shtandart terminal, for instance, concentrates on the throughput of Russian oil to the world market. Russian businesses are also keen to set up in the city. Russia’s joining the WTO thus offers the port of Rotterdam many opportunities.
Background facts and figures
Russia’s share within Rotterdam’s total throughput in 2010 was 14% or 59.8 million tonnes (1). In volume, Russia is Rotterdam’s 2nd biggest partner (2). As EU destination for Russian exports. The Netherlands (Rotterdam) ranks 2nd, after Germany. Its share was 13% or 14.3 billion euro in 2009 (3). The three main products are crude oil and oil products, both transported mainly via the Port of Primorsk, and containers transported via St. Petersburg.
Most of the freight heads westward and consists of liquid bulk: 32.2 million tonnes of crude oil and 20 million tonnes of oil products, mainly fuel oil and gas oil (diesel). Russia is the main oil supplier to the Netherlands. In Rotterdam, the Russian market share in crude oil is 30% and in products it is 25%. Other major freight flows are chemicals (approx. 950,000 tonnes), iron and steel (400,000 tonnes), non-ferrous metals (860,000 tonnes) and coal (450,000 tonnes).
The trade to Russia consists almost totally of general freight: 2.3 million tonnes, mainly consumer goods in containers. From Russia, 2.6 million tonnes is exported in containers and as break bulk. The number of containers transported in 2010 corresponds to 446,000 TEU, 57% up on the previous year. Container freight concerns both transhipment from Asia, and intra-European freight (‘shortsea’), concentrating on the Port of St. Petersburg, and since recently Ust-Luga. To date a large number of containers for/from Russia is still transported via Finland (224,000 TEU, +36% v. 2009).
The Rotterdam spearheads with regard to Russia are break bulk (paper and wood products, steel and iron), containers and energy (oil, gas, coal, biomass). The oil sector in Russia will be mainly informed about the possibilities for tank storage, ship to ship transfers (dolphins and buoys in Caland Canal) and pipeline transport to the hinterland (4). The Dutch, on the other hand, are interested in the possibilities of the future energy port developments, especially in Primorsk and Yamal/Murmansk.
The Russian oil companies Lukoil and Rosneft have major interests in refineries in Flushing and Gelsenkirchen, both of which are supplied with crude oil via Rotterdam. Lukoil also participates in a tank storage joint venture, STR, which is currently tripling its tank capacity in the Botlek area. Lukoil operates a Benelux headquarters and financial operational centre in the Rotterdam City area as well as other Russian companies, such as the Summa Group.