container transportation, particularly for the automotive
industry, there is absolutely no limitation on further growth.”
The complexity of Russian customs and importation
regulations have long been considered to be a major handicap
to the ef;cient import of vehicles and material. According to
Baskakov, this is a historical situation of ten to 15 years ago
which is not the case today.
Today, TransContainer is not facing any kind of dif;culty
with customs clearance, nor is there a shortage of railcars,” he
says. “If a container is being loaded in China, for instance, we
arrange a cold preliminary customs declaration which is sent
to both the customs authorities and to Russian Railways.
When the container arrives on the Russian/Chinese border,
everyone is aware that the cargo is there.
In 2008, we began a project for the importation of
Volkswagen parts from Europe to Russia. At the beginning,
some cargoes would arrive more quickly than others. Our
European partner for this project was DB Schenker which was
responsible for the European side while we took care of
Belarus and Russia.
We did an analysis of the transportation times and found
that the line on the graph was full of peaks and troughs. For a
client, these are not acceptable. Today, the graph shows an
almost <at line and if you ask Volkswagen if they are happy
with the service, the answer will be yes. In 2010, we were
honoured to receive for the ;rst time an award as
Volkswagen’s Best Logistics Operator, something which proves
the point.
The Black Sea has long been considered as an alternative
route for imports into Russia given its proximity to the
southern regions of the country. Infrastructural de;ciencies
have, however, been a long-standing handicap and most
shipments come via the Baltic ports such as St. Petersburg.
According to Mr.Baskakov, cargo between Russia and Europe
are also mainly transported through Baltic region.
We arrange a lot of transportation through Belarus. Five
years ago, the total volume transiting through Belarus was
around 10,000 TEUs a year. This year, we expect around
Another example quoted by Baskakov concerns
TransContainer’s handling of Fiat imports from Italy which
used to travel through the Bosphorus to the Black Sea port of
Novorossiysk. Then, according to market demands, the
company offered the clients a block train from Italy through
TransContainer’s terminal in Dobra, Slovakia.
We established this new route for Sollers – which had a
joint venture with Fiat at the time – and told them what our
plan was. OEMs should not be looking for new routes. That is
the job of the professionals such as us.”
One of the dif;culties associated with the building of
block trains is the relative lack of backhaul opportunities.
Baskakov quotes the route between Europe and China as an
example. “On the westbound route, we are 80% full, but this
reduces to 20% on the way back,” he says. “For a
transportation company, the empty leg is really the cost-
maker. We do, however, have volumes from Europe to Russia
which improves the balance of the <ows and enables us to
offer very good rates on these routes.”
In August 2012, Russia ;nally gained membership of the
World Trade Organisation but Baskakov, while acknowledging
greater access to European partners and infrastructure, does
not see any real advantages for his company. “It will not
impact on the container business,” he says. “It is more of an
advantage for the OEMs.”