DP World and Rosatom conclude an agreement on cooperation on container transit for the carriage of general cargo along the Northern Sea Route (NSR), which should amount to 30 million tons by 2030. According to Kommersant's information, the agreements include the design and construction of unique ice-class container ships – this refers to eight vessels that can start shipping in 2025. Market participants are skeptical about the project, pointing out the difficulties of assessing the market, the lack of back loading from Europe to Asia and the colossal investment. Experts believe that the problem of asymmetry of cargo traffic can be solved by using combined bulk ships.
As it became known to Kommersant, Rosatom and the DP World port operator, controlled by the UAE authorities, are going to sign a cooperation agreement during the Arctic Day in St. Petersburg on July 23. We are talking about a joint study of pilot container traffic as part of the Northern Sea Transit Corridor (NSTC) project.
The general director of the state corporation Alexei Likhachev and the president of the DP World group Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem will participate in the event. Rosatom had no comment on the topic. A Kommersant source familiar with the details of the agreement confirmed the plans of signing the document. According to the agreement, already in 2021, the partners begin to design ice-class container ships, says the source of Kommersant. According to him, the performer will be determined at a competition. The first transit shipment is expected in 2025.
According to Kommersant's sources in the industry, this could involve the construction of eight container ships, most likely in China.
The interlocutor of Kommersant, close to Rosatom, claims that now "there are no agreements on China." One of Kommersant's sources is confident that Russian shipyards are unable to complete this order: Zvezda is loaded, international investors will not go to the Zaliv in Crimea because of the sanctions. Most likely, he thinks, the contract will go to China or South Korea.
The fact that Rusatom Cargo is negotiating a joint venture with DP World within the framework of NSTC became known a year ago (see Kommersant dated July 16, 2020). DP World has repeatedly announced its intention to invest in Russian ports and in 2016 created a joint venture with RDIF. Candidates included NUTEP, the FESCO group and separately the Vladivostok Commercial Sea Port (VCSP), the dry cargo area of the Taman seaport, but there were no deals. In 2020, VCSP was placed under management of Rosatom.
The plans for the development of NSTC were reported to Vedomosti in the autumn of 2019 with reference to the presentation of the state corporation. Investments in the necessary infrastructure were then estimated at $ 7 billion, including $ 5.8 billion in the construction of 33 container ships.
In June, the first deputy head of Rosatom, Kirill Komarov, said that by 2030 it is planned to transport about 30 million tons of transit cargo along the Northern Sea Route. On July 19 at the meeting of the Council for Strategic Development and Projects with President Vladimir Putin First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov noted that the cost of the NSTC project by 2030 is 716 billion rubles, of which 250-260 billion rubles will be invested by "Rosatom", 130-140 billion rubles is the budget and the NWF.
The concept of the project of such a vessel was presented at the beginning of the year by the Finnish Aker Arctic. The vessel is designed for 8 thousand TEU with Arc7 ice class. Length is 300 m, width is 46 m, draft - 13 m. With a 56 MW power plant, the icebreaking capacity is 2.3 m, in the 44 MW version - 1.9 m, which in theory means the possibility of year-round navigation accompanied by an icebreaker. In addition, on June 25, PortNews was told about their developments in this direction at the Central Scientific and Research Institute of Merchant Marine (TsNIIMF). The Institute recommended a version of an Arc8 class container ship with a capacity of about 6 thousand TEU, the main fuel is LNG, icebreaking capacity (stern foremost) is about 2.7 m for the pilot stage of the NSTK.
The industry is skeptical about the NSTK project. Kommersant's interlocutors note that it is very difficult to predict the prospects for container transportation, taking into account the skyrocketing freight market, there are big questions about the presence of backloading (from Europe to China), as well as the need to attract huge investments in the construction of the fleet and infrastructure. In addition, Kommersant's sources talk about the need for icebreaker support and the removal of limiting areas on the Northern Sea Route.
According to Mikhail Grigoriev, the head of the Gekon consulting company, the problem of asymmetry of freight traffic can be solved by using combined bulk ships: this will ensure the transportation of containers to the west and mineral cargo, primarily from the port of Murmansk, to the east. He recalls that in 1998 Kvaerner Masa-Yards (now Aker Arctic) developed conceptual designs for such combined ships with a deadweight of 25-40 thousand tons, although now the required deadweight of vessels is more - 100 thousand tons (estimated capacity is 5-6 thousand TEU).