In January-May 2017, Container Terminal Saint-Petersburg (CTSP), owned by UCL Holding, handled 264,860 TEU, recording a growth of 10,2% year-on-year. This makes CTSP the leading container terminal in Russia, accounting for 14.25% of the country’s total handling. The terminal strongly keeps its place at the top of all Russian container stevedores for the second consecutive year. In 2016, its throughput was 557,800 TEU reaching an increase of 40% y-o-y and leaving behind the former leaders, the two Global Ports’ facilities in St. Petersburg: First Container Terminal and Petrolesport, which both reduced their volumes by 16.8% and 29.7% respectively.
Alexander Scherbinin, CTSP Managing Director, kindly agreed to answer our questions and comment on the recent developments in the national stevedoring sector and at the major Russian container terminal in particular.
Port.Today: Alexander, could you please tell our readers how you manage to maintain this high growth rate and keep up your leadership in the aggressive competitive environment of today, especially at the Russian Baltics.
Alexander Scherbinin: We stick to the same simple principles that we have been following since the very beginning of our work, i.e. high service level; individual approach to our customers and their requirements; competitive, win-win terms of work. According to our experience, this approach is fully justified and we intent to adhere to it in the future.
Port.Today: Still, the competition at the Russian Baltic coast has always been very tough. It becomes even tougher with the launch of the new container terminals at Ust-Luga and Bronka ports. How would you estimate your competitors? Do you feel a threat from them in a short term?
Alexander Scherbinin: We highly respect all the stevedoring companies operating at this challenging market. With the excess of container capacities that we observe here today, all the terminals have to actively compete on a daily basis and constantly work on their competitive advantages. Any terminal, irrespectively of its size or capacity, experiences difficulty nowadays to retain and develop its cargo and client base. Obviously, we feel the competition.
Port.Today: Petrolesport has recently announced the plans to increase its current container capacity of 1 mln TEU by additional 400,000 TEU. Other terminal operators also regularly communicate about their investments into capacity expansion. Do you consider it reasonable bearing in mind today’s overcapacity in Russia? What are your views on the potential of Russian container terminals market?
Alexander Scherbinin: Within the nearest 1-2 years I do not see any basis for a significant growth of container volumes in St. Petersburg. The existing capacity excess must cover the demand in the perspective of not less than 5 years. Therefore, I would consider it justified to invest in the expansion either when there is a strong confidence in the development of the cargo base or when the current volumes of container handling require that. In other cases, the expansion would lead to significant risks.
Port.Today: We know that CTSP is constantly working on new projects. Could you tell us some of your “success stories”?
Alexander Scherbinin: Yes, we are actively developing various projects but the most interesting in
my mind are those connected with the automation and with the use of IT. Among others, I would like
to mention a successful operation of a system of the automated control of reefer containers during storage at our terminal. It is REFCON system that has been implanted in our TOS. This system allows to monitor the work of the reefer module remotely, without any manual inspection, providing maximum control of the cargo condition. It also allows us
to react immediately if there is anything wrong and the cargo is at risk.
Besides, we have introduced an electronic truck appointment system to manage the truck arrivals and to ease the gate congestion. This system has allowed to decrease the truck turn time at the terminal on an average to 30 minutes and reduce unproductive moves by 10%.
In the course of our cooperation with the Baltic customs, shipping lines and cargo owners we have developed a technology whereby import cargo, which requires reloading from containers into trucks upon arrival at our terminal, is inspected by the customs during its reloading. This allowed the cargo owners as well as the port to cut extra charges and time normally linked with customs inspections.
At present, we are working on a system of automatic container damage inspection, which would detect and report any possible damages of a container at the gate and allow to minimize truck arrival time.
We are also working at security issues, particularly we are considering a possibility to install additional safety systems at our STS cranes to eliminate collisions with a vessel while handling. The system would minimize such risks.
Port.Today: The issue of new technologies is really exciting and closely connected with efficiency. Could you tell us of any recently introduced novelties that have led to a significant increase in the terminal’s productivity?
Alexander Scherbinin: To ensure high quality of our services we select only state-of-the-art equipment and technologies of trusted providers. This guarantees high speed and reliability of our handling operations. However, modern equipment alone is not enough to reach greater performance. Another key factor to the efficient work of a container terminal is an advanced terminal operating system (TOS) incorporating multiple technologies to increase productivity. CTSP employs SOLVO.TOS, a system developed by Solvo, the St. Petersburg-based leading developer of IT solutions for ports, container terminals and warehouses. This system, with certain modifications, is also installed at many Russian ports and terminals. In 2016, a new functionality was added to our TOS, which significantly improved our container yard planning by minimizing not only the number of moves and distance travelled by the equipment around the terminal, but also the number of operations at receiving and delivery of containers. This novelty has increased our berth productivity by 10%, our RTG yard productivity by 15% and reduced container reshuffles by 15%. This combination of advanced equipment with the effective TOS allows to optimize operational process at the terminal and reach maximum results.
To conclude our discussion, we asked Alexander Scherbinin to say a few words to our readers.
Alexander Scherbinin: We are grateful to our customers and highly appreciate our co-operation. To all companies operating at the container shipping market I would like to wish stability in the work, sustainable cargo volumes and clear perspectives of further development. From our part, we are ready to provide a high level of services at our terminal in the port of Saint-Petersburg in Russia.