Ocean connections between India and Russia are growing at a brisk pace, as Moscow looks to long-time natural allies to lessen the impact of Western sanctions it has had to face over the Ukraine conflict.

FESCO, Russia’s largest container carrier, last week had its first call at Mundra Port on a service that connects India, China and North-West Russia.

The port rotation is Rizhao (China), Lianyungang (China), Ningbo (China), Shanghai (China), Yantian (China), Mundra (India), St Petersburg (Russia) and Rizhao.

The current itinerary calls for a monthly call, but plans are already in the works to improve the frequency to fortnightly.

The service is being operated under the FESCO Baltorient Line (FBOL) brand, using three ships of 2,500-3,000 TEU capacity each.

The move comes on the heels of Ruscon, another leading container transport company in Russia, significantly expanding its network from the Black Sea port of Novorossysk to Nhava Sheva and Mundra.

Ruscon has boosted its tonnage deployments from one vessel to four vessels in order to provide a weekly sailing frequency. In addition, a new stop has been introduced at Jeddah Port in Saudi Arabia.

Those moves complement a string of “inducement” calls recently seen on the resurgent trade lane, mostly by non-vessel operating common carriers (NVOCCs) looking to capitalise on lucrative cargo opportunities.

Mumbai-based Econship is one such new entrant into this market.

The NVO has already held a few inducement vessel deployments from Nhava Sheva (JNPT) and Mundra to Novorossiysk, with extended inland reach for St. Petersburg and Moscow.  The company has announced a monthly sailing frequency once sufficient demand builds up.

Econship boasts a transit time of 16 to 18 days from Nhava Sheva to Novorossiyk.

In parallel, more efforts are under way to maximise the use of the alternative Central Asia corridor, known as the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC), by improving the rail access from Russia to Iran.

Russia and Iran have now agreed to speed up construction on the missing rail links, particularly some 100-mile stretch that has been designed to connect the Iranian city of Rasht, near the Caspian Sea, to Astara on the border with Azerbaijan.

INSTC has also been a major talking point between India and Iran as stakeholders weigh various options to scale up freight flows amid the sanctions-related challenges.

In another step, Moscow has agreed to lease its Vladivostok free port as a transit point for moving intra-country Chinese cargo.

According to reports, by this transloading method, the land transportation distance from China’s northeast Jilin province to its eastern parts is expected to shorten by some 800 kilometers. As a result, there will be significant logistics cost advantages, which local authorities believe will drum up shipper interest. The arrangement is due to take effect next month.

Source: Container News