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Rosatom Buys Stake in Logistics Firm to Further Arctic Ambitions

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The Rosatom-operated nuclear icebreaker Yamal (file image)

By The Maritime Executive 2019-12-03 19:48:00

Russian state atomic energy agency Rosatom has agreed to purchase a non-controlling stake in the logistics firm Delo Group, furthering Rosatom's ambition to become a leading player in high-latitude shipping. 

Delo was founded by a former lawmaker, Sergei Shishkarev, who led the state Duma's transport committee until returning to run the company in 2014. “The Delo group of companies, together with the Rosatom state corporation, will continue to develop the logistics business based on the existing assets and market competencies of the companies, including multimodal and transit transportation,” Shishkarev said in a statement. 

The two firms are expected to cooperate on developing transport infrastructure for the Northern Sea Route (NSR), the Russian Arctic passage that promises to cut Asia-Europe transit times in half. Under legislation passed by the state Duma last year, Rosatom has authority over shipping, access, security and infrastructure on the Northern Sea Route. 

Rosatom's current shipping assets are limited to icebreaker operations, but it intends to invest billions in a new container service along the NSR. According to Russian outlet Vedomosti, Rosatom wants to capture roughly seven percent of the containerized cargo that currently transits the Suez Canal route between Asia and Europe. In a statement Tuesday, Rosatom said that working in partnership with Delo, it wants to offer an NSR service "no less attractive" than existing services via Suez.

The NSR has never yet seen use for regular transoceanic container services, due in large part to the expense of the icebreaker escorts required for ten months out of the year. MSC, Hapag-Lloyd and CMA CGM have pledged not to use the route due to separate environmental concerns. 

The agreement with Rosatom is Delo's second major deal with the Russian state in two weeks. Last week, Delo Group bought a controlling stake in state-owned Russian Railways' container transportation unit, Transcontainer, paying $940 million for just over 50 percent of the firm. It was the largest privatization transaction in Russia in three years. Officials told Russian outlet RBC that the two agreements were unrelated.