Russian electronic seal, source: RT Invest

Sanctions remain biggest hurdle for eastbound train through Ukraine

When the tracking seal for rail freight transit through Russia is applied at the Ukrainian border, eastbound traffic via this route can finally take off. This is the expectation of RTSB, which is an active operator on the route via Ukraine, and on the New Silk Road in general. but only for westbound traffic so far.

RTSB recently launched a new subsidiary in Moscow. It already ran a branch office in the Russian capital for many years, but in order to expand its range of services a new division is now established. On this occasion, Aleksander Baskakov joined last week’s RailFreight Live. He talked about the latest developments of Russia as a transit country between Europe and Asia. Sanctions on transit goods from west to east remain one of the main difficulties, the company explained.

The story of the seal

Just a quick recap on the sanctions. In June 2019 the Russian government announced that it would lift the ban on overland transport on a range of sanctioned goods such as fresh foods and agriculture products, as well as machine tools and various spare parts, paper and other goods, a huge opportunity for European shippers. There was however a strict requirement: a mandatory application of an electronic seal, which gathers real-time data of the journey through Russia. This seal is installed on the door of container when it enters Russia and removed when it leaves the country.

Although it took some time, the procedures were finally in place at most border points, allowing the first entries of sanctioned goods through Russia in May 2021. However, this was true for the main borders of Russia. Until now, the seal was not available on the border with Ukraine, where companies like RTSB run some of their trains. After all, after transiting Ukraine the train will always pass through Russian territory, before reaching Kazakhstan.

Seals at the Ukrainian border

This will all be changed next year, said Baskakov. “We expect rather January or February than late next year. The seals were until now not available where we needed them to be. They are implemented at the border point Bryansk, but our trains run via the border crossing of Belgorod.

The company is now in talks with RZD to change this and make the seals available at the border crossing of Belgorod. ”This is something that will impact the eastbound volumes. Until now it was not possible to run trains in the direction of China via the border of Ukraine and transit through Russia. This is a great challenge, also in terms of equipment.”

Benefits of the route

“We must resolve this issue to enable eastbound transportation and, as a result, send more cargo in both directions”, RTSB commented. “We already have a lot of customers waiting for the service.”

RTSB is already actively using the route through Ukraine. It uses the route via Batyevo (Ukraine) and Slavkov (Poland). The main advantage is the greater coverage of European countries, it concludes. “The Brest-Malaszewicze border is convenient for traffic to Western Europe, but for South and Southeast Europe, the route through Ukraine is beneficial. This is its potential”, the operator concludes.

European Silk Road Summit

Do you want to know more about new routes on the New Silk Road? On 7 & 8 December the European Silk Road Summit takes place in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. New destinations are among the topics, and RTSB will be represented in the programme by Wolfgang Rupf. Interested? You can have a look at the programme here. Or, you can register here.

Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is editor of RailFreight.com, online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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