Sakhalin Railways looking into ways to boost seafood shipments

May 23, 2007 13:05

Sakhalin Railways has been facing a decrease of seafood shipments mostly due to high prices for the service, according to Gudok newspaper.

Back in 2005, the turnover was good because under a proposal of OAO Russian Railways (plc) the Federal Service of Tariffs introduced quite favourable tariffs for seafood shipments from Sakhalin. More specifically, there was a decreasing factor applied to the existing charges for frozen seafood shipments (0.88 in reefers, 0.79 in isolated thermos cars and 0.86 in ordinary thermos cars).

However, in the first half of 2007 due to a twofold rise of costs for ferriage between Sakhalin-based Kholmsk and mainland Vanino Port the tariffs have grown less attractive for seafood consigner. For instance, in April 2007 canned fish was sent by railway only to the orders of the State Reserve.

In late April 2007 Sakhalin fishermen asked head of OAO Refservis (plc) engaged in refrigerated shipments for a decrease of its prices. However, the company's general director Nikolay Averkov reportedly said that it was impossible as the profitability of refrigerated shipments fluctuated within 2-3%.

In the meantime, deputy general director of Sakhalin Union of Fishing Co-ops Alexander Saprykin is quoted as saying that now ferriage accounts for 50% of the total cost of transportation of seafood from Sakhalin to the European part of the country.

According to Sakhalin Centre of High-Class Transportation Services (DTsFTO as abridged from Russian), the cost of sending one thermos car with seafood amounts to RUR296,000 for the car's way from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk to Irkutsk and RUR474,000 to Moscow. The above prices are too high for local consigners, therefore they prefer to deliver freshfrozen fish by trucks.

A large part of fish products is supplied to the continent via ferriage or by ships to the ports of Primorsky Krai and only 18% from the total harvest is delivered by railway.

Evidently, it is quite a challenge for the railways to compete with hauliers in terms of their prices for the services. As usual, hauliers normally face problems with finding contractors to load their trucks for the back way from Sakhalin to the continent.

In order to compensate for the costs, hauliers agree to transport seafood cargoes at low prices, although on the way to the destination point the temperature regime required for perishables can be broken, the report claims. Besides, the paper work for truck deliveries and their inspection are less time-consuming than those for railway deliveries.

When loading seafood into trucks senders will now and then fail to draw up any documents which makes it impossible to control seafood flow in volume and quality. Besides, the state loses a lot of tax disbursements because transportation by trucks is often illegal without any taxes paid, the report proceeded to explain.

Another problem for railways is the lack of specialized rolling stock in the course of the season. In the second half of August seafood shipments considerably grow and Sakhalin railways normally fail to satisfy the demand for their services. One reefer section takes only 170 tonnes of fish and very many such units are required to cater for the demand taking into account that in the year 2005 Sakhalin fishermen harvested 144,000 tonnes of salmons and in 2006 the harvest amounted to 142,000 tonnes. The forecast for the current year 2007 is 160,000 tonnes.

According to DTsFTO Centre of High-Class Transportation Services, the situation has been aggravated by Sakhalin Sea Steamship Line which prefers to load motor cars onto ferry boats rather than railway cars. The thing is that hauliers normally pay for the ferriage straight in cash, while payment of the railways takes some time.

At the same time, head of Sakhalin Railways Sergey Tishkin is quoted as saying that it is quite possible to attract extra volumes of seafood cargoes taking into account growing demand for Sakhalin finfish and other aquatic products. Besides, local producers have been also tending to make their operations legal.

At a recent meeting of fishermen and railway men in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk the participants suggested that Refservis dealing with refrigerated shipments and TransContainer should think of setting up terminals for container loading at the premises of Sakhalin Railways, while Sakhalin Sea Steamship Line should provide for first-priority loading of empty reefer sections and keep ferriage prices on a par with 2006. The Security Council of the province's government should assist in simplifying seafood checks and Sakhalin Railways should provide the consigners with the necessary rolling stock during the salmon season, the participants said at the meeting.

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