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Trade Volume at Russian Seaports Recovers to Pre-War Levels

St. Petersburg container terminal
Andrew Shiva / CC BY-SA 4.0

Published Sep 12, 2023 8:21 PM by The Maritime Executive

For the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine last year, operations at major Russian ports are recovering, according to new data released last week by Kiel Institute for the World Economy.

The volume of goods unloaded at Russia’s three largest container ports - St. Petersburg, Vladivostok and Novorossiysk - is now approaching pre-war levels. In particular, arrivals at St. Petersburg had slumped by 90 percent in the last year but have seen a significant jump in recent weeks.

“Where the goods are coming from is not clear from the containership movements, but Russia seems to be rejoining world trade. This occurs despite sanctions imposed by western nations and the falling value of the ruble,” said Vincent Stamer, Head of Kiel Trade Indicator.

The Kiel Institute data is corroborated by the half- year report of Russia’s Association of Commercial Sea Ports (ASOP), released a month ago. The report highlighted that in January-July 2023, Russian ports increased their cargo throughput by 9 percent year-on-year to 525 million tons. Specifically, containerized cargo was up by 6 percent reaching 29 million tons. Dry bulk cargo took the largest share with over 260 million tons handled, representing an increase of 17 percent.

Partly, the surging trade between China and Russia could be behind the recovery of operations at major Russian seaports. Customs figures published by Beijing last week shows that China’s imports from Russia reached historic levels in dollar terms in the last two months.

China imported $11.5 billion worth of Russian products in August alone. This was the largest single monthly volume in the last two decades. Russia projects its trade volume with China will reach $200 billion this year, compared to $185 billion in 2022.

In addition, India has also played a critical role in uplifting Russia’s trade prospects. In the past one year, Russia moved from 25th to 7th position among India’s top trading partners, with bilateral trade averaging $45 billion in the first quarter of this year.

Top image: STS cranes at Port of St. Petersburg (Andrew Shiva / CC BY-SA 4.0)