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23 Mar, 2010 07:20

New direct sea link highlights shipping investment

The world's largest shipping company, Maersk Line, has launched the first ever direct sea route between South America and Russia.

The $45 million project is expected to help cargo traffic in Russia return to pre-crisis levels. The first ever direct route from Ecuador to Russia will bring not only millions of fresher bananas to Russia, but also new markets for Russian exports according to Nils Smedegaard Andersen., CEO of Maersk Line.

“In this direct form to South America there it will be new, it will be reliable, it will be fast to export fertilizers, machinery, and other products, spare parts, foodstuffs, to Central America and the Caribbean.”

Visiting the launch of the new transatlantic service Vladimir Putin hailed the improvements in Russia’s transport infrastructure that had allowed the volume of cargo at its ports to increase by 9% over the past year.

Prime Minister Putin pledged that the improvements would continue.

”Around 800 billion rubles were invested in Russia's transport infrastructure last year – a crisis year, I would remind you. And we will go on paying close attention to the development of transport infrastructure.”

Investment into Russian ports has been flowing in quantity since 1996. Container terminals now have some of the best equipment and IT systems in the world. But problems start once the goods get outside the ports according to Aleksey Bezborodov, Director of Infranews.

”We need railway links to transport cargo out of ports. But nowadays we don’t have railway cargo transportation, in fact. It's a dead-end. Our railway system is not ready for it. “

Industry experts say, to boost cargo shipments Russia needs a network of container terminals across the country and a much more rapid customs clearance system, taking just 24 hours rather than the current delay, which often lasts several days.

But with or without infrastructure changes, analysts expect total freight traffic to get back to pre-crisis levels by next year, after falling 20% in 2009.