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Arkhangelsk port as China’s cargo transport hub

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St. Petersburg, Russia (Ports Europe) June 9, 2024 – Hard pressed by sanctions and isolated from the West, Russia is handing over its logistics “crown jewels” to Beijing. After the Far Eastern Russian port of Vladivostok and the Baltic Sea Ust-Luga Container Terminal project near Leningrad, China is eyeing Russia’s White Sea (Barents Sea) Arctic port of Arkhangelsk as a cargo transport hub.

Arkhangelsk is “ideally located” for transporting goods from China to Russia and back, Ke Jin, a Russia-based executive from Hainan Yangpu NewNew Shipping, said during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF-2024). The potential for exports through the port of Arkhangelsk to China is 3 million tonnes per year.

According to Jin, Arkhangelsk is relatively close to Moscow (the Russian capital is 1,200km to the south) and also suitable as a place to load empty ships from China with timber and wood products for export to China.

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Arkhangelsk and the Northern Sea Route

NewNew Shipping wants to use Russia’s Northern Sea Route (NSR) in 2024. It plans to make 10-12 shipping runs from Shanghai to Arkhangelsk in 2024. The future goal is to eventually transport up to 50 million tonnes of cargo annually.

Head of the region Alexander Tsybulsky, General Director of the Arkhangelsk Commercial Sea Port Tsetsen Goryaev and General Director of Torgmall (with offices in Moscow and Shanghai) Elena Maximova signed an agreement under which Torgmall will ensure the transportation of cargo from ports in China to Arkhangelsk via the NSR. NewNew Shipping is a business partner of Torgmall.

According to Jin, NewNew Shipping plans to operate four vessels on the line during the 2024 navigation season. In addition, the carrier expects to use the capabilities of Russian Railways to send cargo from Arkhangelsk to Moscow.

Hainan Yangpu NewNew Shipping has been operating regular container services to Russia’s Global Ports terminals since 2023 from Shanghai, Ningbo, Qingdao, Nansha (Guangzhou) and other ports in China. In the summer of 2023, the company became the first international line to deliver containerized cargo from St. Petersburg to China via the Northern Sea Route.

In 2023, there was also a direct cargo run via the NSR from Arkhangelsk to Shanghai – the first one in 10 years. The ship carried 500 containers with timber. The travel time was 23 days versus 30-32 days from St. Petersburg.

Government support for Chinese investments

In a clear message of support from the Russian government, during SPIEF’24, the presidential adviser Igor Levitin called for treating icebreaker support on the NSR not as a business, but as an investment in infrastructure that should be made by the state. Rosatom’s representative for Arctic development, Vladimir Panov, emphasized the importance of constructing up to five Arctic-class vessels to ensure year-round operation.

Russia’s state nuclear agency, Rosatom, has partnered with Hainan Yangpu NewNew Shipping to establish a year-round container shipping line via the Arctic’s Northern Sea Route.

Russia as China’s vassal state

This venture follows a previous collaboration with Dubai’s DP World to develop Arctic container shipping, driven by the opportunities created by melting sea ice due to climate change. DP World’s CEO, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, highlighted the significance of the NSR as a “game-changer” for global shipping, underlining the need for alternative routes amid supply chain disruptions and geopolitical tensions.


NSR is a 5,600 km long shipping route, defined by Russian legislation as running from the Karskaza Door to Novaya Zemlya straits in the west, along the Russian Arctic coast above Siberia through the Kara Sea, Laptev Sea, East Siberian Sea, and Chukchi Sea, to Cape Zhelaniya on the Bering Strait.

Cargo traffic on Russia’s Northern Sea Route increases in 2023

The entire route lies in Arctic waters and within Russia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). It is included in what has been called the Northeast Passage. The NSR does not include the Barents Sea, and therefore does not reach the Atlantic.

The NSR currently serves the Arctic ports and the major rivers of Siberia by importing fuel, equipment, food, and exporting timber and minerals. Some parts of the route are ice-free for only two months per year, but melting Arctic ice caps are likely to increase traffic and the commercial viability of the NSR.

For example, the distance from Murmansk (Russia) to Yokohama (Japan) through the Suez Canal is 12,840 nautical miles, but only 5,770 nautical miles through the NSR.

For the corporate players in bulk shipping of relatively low-value raw materials, cost savings for fuel are a crucial driver to explore the NSR for commercial transits, more than delivery time, or environmental concerns.

Russia’s Northern Sea Route only for Russia

The payback period for the port is expected to be over 20 years, which will require government financing.

Ust-Luga Container Terminal to be developed by Xiamen C&D Group

Is Russia’s Ust-Luga Baltic port a Chinese terminal?

The giant Chinese supply chain operations and real estate development corporation Xiamen C&D Group is expected to develop Russia’s Baltic Sea Ust-Luga Container Terminal in the Leningrad region, it was announced in May. Ust-Luga (ULCT) is operated by Global Ports, which is part of the Delo group.

Shanghai stock exchange-listed Xiamen C&D Group prioritises Russia for its business investment and development.

Vladivostok port

The Port of Vladivostok, the largest in Russia’s Far East, has been used since June 2023 to transport goods from China’s northeastern Jilin province to its eastern powerhouse of Zhejiang province. This turned Vladivostok into a domestic Chinese port for Jilin, from where the goods are shipped by rail or truck to the port with no tariffs or taxes incurred.

Russia’s Vladivostok as a domestic Chinese port

The port is located on the Pacific Ocean and sees annual container traffic of nearly 1 million TEUs. With the opening of the port to China, the northeastern interior of China will gain access to the sea. By reaching this seaport via rail, products from Northern China will be easily shipped to Southern China. The port is also home to the Russian Pacific Fleet.

Vladivostok (Chinese name is HaiShenWai) was seized from China by Russia in 1860. Vladivostok (meaning in Russian “to rule the east”) was controlled by China for 171 years during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). China has taken advantage of Moscow’s isolation following its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and has emerged as the dominant partner in the ties between the two countries.

LPG terminal in Sovetskaya Gavan

In May, it was announced that Chinese business is ready to invest in the first Russian sea terminal for the transhipment of liquefied petroleum gases (LPG) in Russia’s Far East port of Sovetskaya Gavan (Khabarovsk region), which is 1,100 km north of Vladivostok.

The Russian Investment Fund said that, together with China’s petrochemical company Haiwei, it will invest 7 billion rubles (70.6 million euro) in the project which will cost 30 billion rubles (303 million euro).

In sanctions-hit Russia: Comms, cranes, dredging, containers come from China

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