August 11Belarusian Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko has told Belarusian media that the Belarusian government has decided to build port facilities in northwestern Russia, a likely reference to previously suggested port areas in Russia’s Leningrad region.
In his statement, Golovchenko noted that Belarus’s shipping problem is not just about fertilizers but also “timber, wheeled cargo and containers.” However, as with previous statements, the actual location of the port has not been disclosed. Golovchenko wanted to “seal the deal first and reveal all the details later”, but said the construction project would be launched “very soon”. Certainly by the end of the year.
During a meeting with government officials on August 11, Belarusian President Lukashenko made it clear that Belarus has “exceptional” support from Russia. He also added that there was a need to use “every available meter of Russian ports for shipping” as Belarus built its new port facility and was eager to speed up the construction project.
Golovchenko too said that Belarus shipped 2 million tonnes of cargo through Russian ports in the first half of 2022. In comparison, Belarus shipped 0.1% of its cargo through Russian ports in 2021, a negligible share.
According to Golovchenko, Belarus is currently working with nine Russian ports to ship its goods and said they have “no problems with shipping or exporting Belarusian products” and are working to further reduce shipping costs. dispatch.
Belarusian officials have discussed shipping the country’s products through Russian ports in the Leningrad region since early last year, often saying that cooperation with Russia on the issue is happening at a rapid pace.
Last year there were claims of using an already built Russian port, but since Western countries banned Russian oil and fertilizer exports through EU ports this year Russia will probably need all of its available port capacity for its own exports.
It is probably for this reason that Lukashenko this year started talking about acquiring “land” in the Leningrad region for the construction of a Belarusian port on “the Russian coast of the Baltic Sea”.
Even though this construction project begins this year, it is unclear when it might be finished. Belarus’ annual potash shipments are around 11-12 million tonnes per annum (tpa), along with petroleum products, timber and more, which would require the construction of a very large port.
Golovchenko acknowledged the considerable costs that the construction of the port will entail; Belarus’ main financing option right now would be to borrow even more money from Russia, which would further increase the Lukashenko regime’s dependence on Moscow.
According to the Belarusian Ministry of Transport and Communications, the state-owned Belarusian Railways had developed 40 new export routes to more than 20 countries. The lion’s share of these new export routes are rail routes to or through China, Central Asia and the Caucasus.
By commenting on this question, Golovchenko noted that the underdeveloped railway infrastructure remains a bottleneck for Belarusian exports to the east. However, Golovchenko said a large part of Belarus’ exports were already redirected to the east.
While Belarusian exports to Ukraine amounted to $3-4 billion in some years, they have now fallen to almost zero since Ukraine ended all economic contact with Belarus due to support from the latter to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, this year, $2 billion of Belarusian exports to Ukraine have already been redirected to other markets, according to Golovchenko.
Belarus’ shift to the east could therefore yield results, but there are still many billions of dollars of exports to be redirected, and Belarus’ rail infrastructure to China, Central Asia and the Caucasus cannot be updated overnight.
Belarus is unlikely to find new markets in these regions to make up for all of its lost markets in Western Europe, and while trying, it will continue to face logistical difficulties.