"This chain breaks in different places all the time"

— Why is there a shortage of containers on the market and how long will it last?

— The reasons are quite clear — this is the coronavirus that has been raging on the planet since the beginning of 2020, and it is completely unclear how long it will persist. We have just corresponded with the president and owner of Eurogate Group (operator of container terminals in Europe. - RBC), Thomas Eckelmann. He said that there are a huge number of new cases in Europe [COVID-19] - this, of course, affects logistics, the operations of European ports. The impact of the coronavirus on what is happening in the transport complex since the beginning of the pandemic is different. First, the enterprises that manufacture products were closed. Then the transport stopped working, the vessels that were supposed to carry these cargoes accumulated. After that, the situation began to normalize in some places and the demand market appeared. But the warehouses are empty, they need to be filled, a large number of fleets and containers are needed for a one-time replenishment of all food and other stocks that the population needs. It's a chain that breaks in different places all the time.

Even now, the situation with coronavirus seems to have stabilized in China, but a ban has been imposed on changing ship crews directly in this country. Major ship owners are trying to get around this ban, changing crews in other countries. But when they get to China, the sailors, as far as I understand, have to sit in a Chinese port for a couple of weeks, then under some kind of quarantine, that is, three months will pass before the sailor gets into the family.

In the second half of 2022, the XX Congress of the Communist Party will be held in China. What will they come up with by this point? If there was a clear strategic global plan to combat the pandemic, an understanding of how to normalize the situation or how it would develop, one could assume how long this crisis and the shortage of containers would last as part of the same trade war between China and the United States. When the boxes (containers. - RBC) go to the USA, they just don't come back from there.

Logistics is influenced by events that take place in the world at the political level and at the level of sovereignty of each of the countries, when they want to protect their citizens and protect themselves in different ways. For example, the Japanese are extremely disciplined, and if, God forbid, something happens in this direction, then only the increased container turnover can be replaced by a fall, because they can impose some restrictions and follow them strictly.

In addition to the coronavirus, other events affect the situation; for example, the incident with the container ship Ever Given in the Suez Canal [ran aground in March 2021, having bottlenecked hundreds of ships]. Of course, it did not radically change the world logistics, but, nevertheless influenced the way the world container transport flows are distributed today, and questioned the universality and perfect risk-free delivery of goods from Southeast Asia to Europe and back through the Suez Canal. The water space is an element where anything can happen. Therefore, it is difficult to make forecasts for the transport industry in terms of normalization of traffic flows.

I would add that consumer demand for goods and their receipt is also changing. People stop going to stores, start using e-commerce elements to a greater extent in order to protect themselves and their family from getting into a mass crowd of people. Accordingly, the area of operations of logistics companies is changing. E-commerce is another product and logistics chain.

— How long can it take to normalize the situation?

— At least 2022 will be a very difficult year. Even the middle of 2023, in my understanding, is still a period of some kind of abnormality. The main thing that will affect the normalization of the situation is, oddly enough, not some unique solutions in the logistics market, new routes, schemes, container transportation by drones. This is a question directly related to vaccination of people, the fight against coronavirus and when and how confidently we will see a schedule for reducing the incidence and returning people to normal life in different countries.

Delo Group is a transport and logistics holding, owns the largest railway container operator in Russia, Transcontainer, and 30.75% of Global Ports (one of the largest operators of port terminals). The Group also includes the DeloPorts company, which owns the NUTEP container terminal in Novorossiysk, the Delo service company and 75% of the KSK grain terminal. Sergey Shishkarev owns 70% of Delo Group, Rosatom owns 30%.

The revenue of "Delo Management Company" (the parent company of the Group) according to IFRS in 2020 amounted to 122.7 billion rubles, EBITDA — 31.3 billion rubles. Net debt at the end of 2020 is 134.3 billion rubles, the net debt/ EBITDA ratio is 4.3.

- The obvious consequence of the shortage of containers is the increase in prices for their transportation. How much has the price increased in almost two years of the pandemic?

- Freight prices have dramatically increased. If shipping a container from Shanghai to Europe in the pre-covid times cost $2-2.4 thousand, now prices reach $14 thousand for a 20-foot box and a 40-foot one. The figures have grown less for transshipment in ports, but nevertheless there is an increase in prices, because there are queues, stevedores work almost in an emergency mode, around the clock and seven days a week - customers are extremely interested in the fastest possible processing, for example, of a container in the Far East for its prompt shipment through transit or to the end consumer in Russia.

The profits of shipping companies are off the scale. This is evident from the example of our partner, which we always focus on — Maersk [the world leader in container transportation]. In the third quarter of 2021 alone, its EBITDA was about $7 billion. When the profits of transport companies amount to tens of billions of dollars, this is absolutely abnormal for the industry.

- Due to the migration crisis, Poland has decided to suspend freight traffic with Belarus at "Kuznitsa" railway checkpoint since November 21. Has this affected the rail transportation of the Delo Group?

— We do not work through "Kuznitsa", so we have not lost anything, we have not redirected anything. We work through Brest and Kaliningrad. We know the problem just as well as you, from the media.

— In general, does the crisis on the border of Poland and Belarus pose risks for you?

- Of course it does. More than 50% of our transit goes through Belarus and Poland. If the political crisis really comes, the borders will be closed, then, in fact, transit will be stopped. And this is a serious problem not only for us, but also for trading partners in Europe and Asia.

"I, as a consumer of bananas in Pyaterochka, also feel an increase in transport costs"

— How did the increase in the cost of transportation affect the final cost of the goods on the shelf in the store?

- The impact of freight rates on the final price of the goods strongly depends on the goods. We have deduced a simple formula for ourselves: the heavier and more bulky the cargo, the more the cost of transportation affects the final cost of the goods. It is clear that the role of increasing the freight rate by 400% on the cost of transported iPhones, which are thousands in one 40-foot container, is negligible. Therefore, if we are talking about bulk cargo, then we consider two or three logistics percent in its value to be normal, the end user will not notice it much. But, for some cheap and bulky cargo, this contribution will already be measured in tens of percent. For example, a laptop weighing 3 kg in its cost of 60 thousand rubles carries a little more than 150 rubles of logistics costs, a refrigerator weighing 30 kg and costing 30 thousand rubles - already about 1.5 thousand rubles.

— That is, the buyer of Pyaterochka, looking at the increase in prices for bananas and oranges, may not blame the transport companies?

- Of course, the growth of transport costs affects. But, it is about 10 - 12-15% in some places, and 1-2% in some other places. We calculated the share in logistics for some groups of goods in comparison with last year, and it turned out that vegetables and fruits have 10%, as in 2020, shoes and clothing - about 2-3%, last year it was less than 0.5%, household appliances: small - up to 1%, large — up to 5%, in 2020 this indicator was equal for both categories, about 1.5%. The shortage of refrigerated containers, queues at ports where goods are picked up, preferences that the carriers of perishable goods want to receive, certainly affect the cost of goods, and you, as an end consumer, and I, as a consumer of bananas in Pyaterochka, also feel this.

Five facts about Sergey Shishkarev

Sergey Shishkarev was born in 1968 in Novorossiysk. He graduated from the Military Red Banner Institute, the Academy of Civil Service, served in the Marine Corps in the Northern Fleet.

In 1993, he founded Delo forwarding company in Novorossiysk, which became the basis of the group of the same name, and headed it until 1999.

In 1999, 2003 and 2007 he was elected to the State Duma (III-V convocations). He is the author of more than 50 bills. In the fifth convocation, he occupied the post of the Chairman of the Transport Committee.

In 2012-2015, he was a member of the expert council at the Government. Since 2013 - the first deputy chairman of the Maritime Board at the Government. Head of the Russian Handball Federation since 2015.

Owns 70% of Delo Group. The businessman's fortune, according to Forbes, is $800 million.

"We will strive to recoup the acquisition of Transcontainer in three to four years"

— How much has the profitability of Delo Group's business as a whole and its largest daughter, Transcontainer, increased against this background?

— I will start with Transcontainer, whose financial results were directly and very positively affected by the increase in the cost of transportation. Its net profit under IFRS for the first half of the year increased by almost 55% and amounted to more than 9 billion rubles. In general, we are going above the plan for Transcontainer. This December, the company's estimated EBITDA will be 27-28 billion rubles with a planned 19-20 billion rubles. Revenue will increase by 30-35% by 2020, and profit will grow proportionally to it.

However, the rest of the business segments are more stable, because there has been no increase in transshipment rates at ports and there have been no dramatic changes in financial indicators there, they are quite closely correlated with the growth or decline in physical business volumes. Of course, the indicators of forwarding companies have increased, in our case — Ruscon, but only slightly.

By the way, the market for stevedoring container transshipment is not as stable as for rail transportation. In the Baltic Basin, for example, it sank by 3.3% in three quarters. Therefore, we try to compensate for such volatility with rational solutions. Literally, in September we completely stopped coal transshipment at the Eastern Stevedoring Company, giving the vacated capacities to containers. Now we are working with partners from APM Terminals (the "daughter" of Maersk, together with Delo, owns 30.75% of Global Ports. - RBC) we are considering a project to increase the capacity of the Eastern Stevedoring Company in the Far East at Vostochny port. First of all, we need to increase the number of storage areas, because we had a small traffic jam. We are constantly working on this problem, and this year we have expanded the volume of container yards here by 10 thousand, now we can easily store up to 31 thousand boxes.

Financial indicators would have grown even more, but there is not enough fleet, capacity and generally the ability to accelerate on the expanses of Russian Railways. We are constantly in dialogue with our partners, competing, at least ideologically and strategically, with our coal miners, who claim that container transportation is unprofitable, but coal is our everything. I have a different opinion - coal should be exported, but containers are the future of Russian Railways and the Russian transport system. Transit of one container on the territory of Russia on average gives about $ 10 thousand effect for the Russian economy and budget.

In the first nine months of 2021, the volume of container traffic by rail amounted to almost 5 million TEU (TEU is the equivalent of a 20-foot container. - RBC), in ports - 4.2 million TEU. The most important thing here is not a 15 or 9% increase in imports and exports, but a 47% increase in transit on the China—Europe—China route. And, by the end of the year, a million [TEU] is expected!

But, this is only about 6% of the volume of container traffic between Europe and Southeast Asia and in the opposite direction. Imagine how much additional revenue could be received, including tax revenues, if the infrastructure was ready to allow the entire volume of this transit through our border crossings. To do this, the port stations, which sometimes also get clogged and are not ready for intensive operations, should also work in lockstep. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Russian customs for their work, which has turned its face to business and is doing everything possible in terms of digitalization of electronic declaration centers. In general, now there is a question of transferring customs to a round-the-clock mode of operation, which will also increase the speed of cargo handling and the overall cargo flow.

- In October 2021, Delo Group published its IFRS report for the first time, its EBITDA for 2020 amounted to about 31 billion rubles. What is your forecast for 2021?

- EBITDA of more than $600 million (RUB 44.5 billion — RBC).

— Taking into account such an increase in demand for container services, have you reviewed plans for the return on investment in Transcontainer, which you bought for 120 billion rubles at the end of 2019?

- Of course, the volumes and rates at which we transport today, and our plans significantly reduce the period of return on investment. In addition, this year we have earned synergistic effects, which I was really relying on — they are already measured in billions of rubles. First of all, this is interaction with our stevedoring assets, especially in conditions of shortage of freight capacities. And, also with the group's freight forwarder, who, through expertise in working with container lines and exporters, optimizes empty runs of Transcontainer platforms. If earlier I talked about five to seven years, today, if this trend continues, we will strive for a three- to four-year payback.

— If we compare the Russian container business with the international one, what are the features and problems?

- Fundamentally, the Russian container business differs from the business of our foreign competitors or partners in that Russia has extremely low containerization (the share of shipping in containers from the total volume of cargo transportation. - RBC), which differs from European countries by times. If we have an average of 10-12% for all types of cargo, this is the level of India, then the USA and China — 17-18%, and Europe - already from 20 to 40%.

Of course, we are still very far behind in terms of introduction of digital products. The leading companies are Maersk, MSC (Swiss Mediterranean Shipping Company. - RBC), CMA (French CMA CGM Group) sell their container service through electronic platforms. This is our reserve. Delo Group has adopted a digitalization strategy, we call it a TC-centric strategy, because a lot of the group is built around Transcontainer.

If we talk about the work of stevedoring assets, the degree of digital management in the ports of foreign companies is also much higher. Visiting the same Thomas [Eckelmann] in Eurogate, I saw loaders that operate without drivers, and at Dubai Port World - almost complete automation of unloading and loading containers onto ships. Manual mode is activated only at the last moment, when there is 1.5 m left before the "clutch" grabs the container or puts it on the ship. Young Arab girls control the joystick and put the container in place. I asked them why it was girls who did it. They explained that they have very sensitive hands, they play computer games and, accordingly, have a good control of joysticks and perform this work very efficiently. We are lagging behind in this, but we constantly hold seminars, train people and send them on internships so that they learn the best practices and we can move on to various automation methods.

However, today, in conditions of a shortage of carrying capacity, we are not up to frills: take more, throw further. Now the shaft is important, heavy mechanical fast work, and we will finish everything else, cut it off and bring it into the most modern form when calmer times come.

"I have not heard a single case of customers leaving for airlines"

- The head of Finnair, Topi Manner, said in an interview with RBC in October that the cost of transporting goods between Europe and Asia by sea and by plane has almost equaled, which is why some of her customers choose to transport goods by plane. Have you felt the outflow of customers?

— I have not heard a single case of any of the customers leaving for the airlines. Customers offer various incentive measures to get ahead of the queue somewhere, be the first to get to the pier and increase the number of ship entries.

There is an element of aggressive marketing in the words of the head of Finnair. But, there are not so many goods in the world that require such a breakneck speed of transportation as planes provide. Maybe some kind of perishable and expensive seafood varieties.

- Less than a year after the privatization of Transcontainer, Russian Railways decided to create a new container operator called Business Asset. Did Russian Railways give any obligations not to do this?

- It was implied. There were no instructions to prohibit the creation of a competitor in the auction documentation. But, I believe the merchant's word more here. We were going to a fair competition, therefore, having paid the price, according to experts, higher than it seemed, we expected that there would be no such initiatives to create a competitor within the framework of Russian Railways.

But, in general, I am absolutely neutral about this. Competition makes you move your legs faster. But, on the other hand, today there is a market that absorbs absolutely all initiatives and all attempts to saturate it with fitting platforms and containers. I think it will be very difficult to catch up with us, but it is possible and necessary to compete with us.

The trend of increasing demand for container transportation will persist. The lag in containerization is obvious, so I am only for equal competition, so that no "daughter", "granddaughter" receives any preferences, including any tariff preferences. For example, in recent months there has been a rather strange story with issuance of freight traffic permits, while up to half of our applications are simply not accepted for various reasons now and then. We cannot carry the declared volume. This should not be the case, but we are in dialogue with Russian Railways, we have a permanent agreement, we constantly point this out.

— Do you feel any bias towards the new "daughter" of Russian Railways "Business Asset"?

— No, I can't point out any distortions here. I cannot give any specific examples when "Business Asset" received preferences. That's not the problem. In general, there is a situation when a significant number of applications from all market participants are not satisfied. But, there are areas where we see a bias. On some transit routes, carriers affiliated with the monopoly work exclusively, and moreover at a reduced tariff (for example, OTLK receives discounts at Chinese-Kazakh crossings. - RBC). For me, this is nonsense. We need to open these routes for other players, then more containers and trains will go. Competition will begin in a good way, border crossings will work more intensively. In addition, container trains will go, maybe even at higher rates, without any discounts.

— Will the idea of an additional increase in tariffs for container transportation by 4.75% be implemented?

— We know that the Government of the Russian Federation approved the financial plan and investment program of Russian Railways last week. Although the logistics community opposed it, the decision to raise tariffs has been made, and we will implement it. The declared final indexation of tariff [for cargo transportation] will be 6.8% in 2022 and more than 6% in subsequent years. Point tariff changes will also be adopted, including for container transportation. These figures have not been published yet, but I don't think they will be less than the stated 4.75%.

The professional community has repeatedly appealed to the Russian government with requests to be more careful in matters of such a sharp rise in tariffs, since freight rates will go down sooner or later anyway, and we needed to accustom the client to the fact that it is convenient, profitable and fast to travel through Russia. And most importantly - to stability, including in pricing. Of course, there is not much drama in this in the growing market, but it still needs to be done consistently, reasonably and concertedly. How this decision will affect the container logistics market, we will be able to say with certainty when summing up the interim and final results of 2022.

"It is necessary to create a fleet and launch it towards Japan, South Korea and China"

- Is Delo planning to create a Russian equivalent of Maersk?

- Your question is pleasing to the ear (laughs). But, Maersk is like a lilac star away from us. Maersk is a state-forming enterprise for Denmark and not only a container carrier. It is a carrier of hydrocarbons and other cargo, among other things, the largest contractor of the Pentagon.

But, of course, the model according to which Maersk operates — transportation by sea, rail and land — is our priority. The only thing that fundamentally distinguishes us from Maersk today is the lack of fleet. We are working in this direction. There is no great deal of choice here — either buy something ready-made, or create your own from scratch. In the ultra-high sea freight market the both options are now fraught with overspending investments. Therefore, we consider, compare different options. But, it is absolutely necessary to do this. Today, this is our need, including from the point of view of the strategic security of the country. It is impossible to provide yourself with the import and export of containerized cargo exclusively by a foreign fleet. Or that small fleet, which, in fact, only Fesco has. Therefore, the Russian logistics chain, of course, should be continued at sea. We believe that it is necessary to create a fleet and launch it towards the Far East, Japan, South Korea, China, as well as the Mediterranean ports that are working today for Novorossiysk. Here we can compete with major global players.

In addition, there is a need for development of ground infrastructure. And here, too, we are on the go. For example, the other day Transcontainer closed a deal to acquire a terminal of the Far Eastern Transport Group (DVTG) in Zabaikalsk. We have an operating container terminal at this station. We want to repurpose DVTG for containers and further combine both terminals into a single organizational and production structure. Subject to introduction of "end-to-end" technology there, the operating terminal will handle incoming cargo, and the newly acquired one will become an "off-dock" terminal, performing local operations and declaration functions. In this way, we expect to increase our capacity in Zabaikalsk up to 500 thousand TEU per year by 2024. If only the railway workers would not fail and meet the targets, including those set in the Transport Strategy, to expand the approach lines to the station and at the entry point itself. Zabaikalsk is one of the largest traffic points of foreign trade cargo flows between Russia and China. We believe that expanding our capacity at this key point for foreign trade and transit corresponds not only to the group's development strategy. It meets the strategic interests of the country — the increase in transit and the growth of containerization.

— How much are you willing to invest in buying shipping companies or creating a fleet from scratch?

— I would say it's hundreds of millions of dollars.

"The combination of land and sea will allow us to confirm the status of a transit power"

- In 2022, Rosatom is going to roll out a container line on the Northern Sea Route (NSR). What will be the role of Delo group in this project?

— We are ready to perform work in this direction at any stage, except for the fleet. I mean the handling of containers at our terminals. In particular, in 2018 Maersk passed a test ship along NSR. It was loaded and unloaded at our stevedoring assets.

In ideal conditions, it is possible and necessary to pass a route along NSR. But, it is very difficult to predict the climate and weather in this region. NSR will become a real alternative to the lower sea transport corridor through the Suez Canal only with year-round operation and with equal tariffs - prices for transportation. Here it is necessary to take into account the ice wiring, the additional cost of fuel and additional fees. There is a lot of work to be done by rescue and emergency response services and from the point of view of monitoring the ice situation. Our partners make strides toward this direction, and we are ready to help them.

— When can NSR become year-round?

— I really don't want this to happen because of climate change and ice melting. The Arctic is a unique region with its own distinctive and almost primordial ecosystem. On the other hand, the Arctic Ocean with its seas today are poorly predictable and difficult to traverse along the main routes. However, the state has quite consciously set objectives for its development. In order for it to work year-round, it is necessary to build new icebreakers so that there are icebreaking groups that will be on duty in the most impassable areas of NSR, ensuring piloting of ships.

Currently, there is a rather definite prospect of a multiple increase in land transit traffic in the direction of East - Europe and back. Here it is necessary to expand the operating domain, increase the speed of trains, create innovative platforms and containers. The combination of land and sea will allow us to confirm the status of a transit power and strengthen the national sovereignty. This will be a real alternative to the traditional South Sea shipping [through the Suez Canal].

— In order to avoid problems with the northern import in the future, the Minister of Transport, Vitaly Saveliev, proposed to create a state-controlled container operator under the auspices of Rosmorrechflot. How do you assess this initiative?

— This proposal has nothing to do with the problem of organizing transit along the Northern Sea Route, but is caused by problems with organization of coastal shipping within the framework of Northern Supply Haul this year — this is a traditional, since Soviet times, state maritime logistics operation for the transfer of necessary goods and cargo to the north-eastern region, where such volumes of goods cannot be delivered by other transport. Of course, to the same Pevek, ships move along NSR route, but, as a rule, Northern Supply Haul should be completed by October 1, when the ice situation in the region permits to go without icebreakers.

I think the failure this year was due to the notorious multiple increase in rates for sea freight — there were not enough vessels for coastal passages. In my opinion, the fleet reserve is simply necessary for such situations. Otherwise, the supply of remote regions will be disrupted.

Creation of a Russian fright line has been floating around for a long time. After all, currently 97% of Russian container cargo passing through Russian ports is transported by foreign carriers. There are, of course, objective reasons for this: a lack of capacity to build own fleet, a rapid growth of foreign container lines that are able to offer high-quality service to Russian shippers, and a more favorable tax regime in foreign jurisdictions. However, own fleet helps not only to solve economic problems, but also to strengthen national sovereignty.

Another thing is that it is extremely costly and any such project requires careful analysis.

— How do you assess the project of building a bridge across the Nevelsky strait to Sakhalin, which was discussed in September at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok?

— If the National Wealth Fund has money, it is necessary to build it, because behind the bridge to Sakhalin it is possible to build a bridge to Japan, which is continuously and massively  increasing container traffic. This, of course, is not hundreds of thousands and not yet millions of boxes. Nevertheless, it would be great to establish this additional transport corridor. And in general, connecting Sakhalin with the continent is a socially significant task.

I know that there is money in the state. Where to invest? In infrastructure, in development of transit opportunities and similar projects. But, they must be clearly calculated, justified and, most importantly, built for reasonable money and within a reasonable time. Now we have adopted an updated Transport Strategy, in which development we have participated from scratch. The plans there are excellent — to create a supporting transport system in our country.

"Fesco is the cherry on top"

— Creation of container operator on NSR was discussed when Rosatom bought 30% of Delo group. But now, apparently, this is not the main priority if you are talking about the need to develop ground transport. What does this partnership give you and Rosatom then?

- Rosatom today is no longer just a nuclear corporation. It is a diversified holding company whose objective is to increase the share of non-nuclear business in the portfolio. And this is understandable — the unique technologies and competencies of the state corporation used in the core business can be used more effectively in different industries.

The partnership gives Rosatom exactly what it came for. It has received today the largest logistics operator, which works with high profitability, increases the volume of transportation and revenue. We are engaged in cargo transportation in the interests of industrial construction of Rosatom's nuclear facilities and are ready to ensure cooperation on transportation via NSR, at least from the point of view of cargo transshipment at our stevedoring assets.

For us, Rosatom is an effective and reliable partner. And in some aspects I would compare it to a teacher. It is indeed a leading corporation that operates according to the highest international management standards. We have built horizontal integration processes. All best practices and advanced technologies that Rosatom currently has are applicable or are being gradually introduced in Delo. In fact, through this partnership we get them for free.

— Earlier you said that in 2023 Rosatom could exercise an option to buy back 19% of Delo Group shares. Are the plans still the same?

— My colleagues from Rosatom and I are constantly discussing the prospects for development of our partnership, but it is premature to discuss the specific parameters of these negotiations in the public settings.

— Do you still intend to acquire Fesco group, which you showed interest in two years ago, as soon as you bought Transcontainer?

— I have always talked about Fesco - both two and three years ago. This is just the cherry on top that would allow us to solve all problems with sea transport. This is not only the Vladivostok Commercial Sea Port, the largest container transshipment, but also, above all, sea transportation.

We do not have an intensive dialogue with the current co-owners of Fesco, but we are in contact with them, as well as with all leading market players. It is possible that at some following spiral development stage there will be a situation when the assets (Delo Group and Fesco. — RBC) will be consolidated. Then it will really become something similar to Maersk. But, at the moment we are not negotiating.

— Can it happen in two or three years or later?

— It depends on goodwill of shareholders and the ability to correctly evaluate the assets. If we are talking about consolidation of assets, the same forms of evaluation should be applied and both parties should agree on the future of the company, distribution of shares, who will manage such company. But, I don't rule out such an alliance.

Time will show how long it will take. Market conditions may prompt us and provoke a more intensive dialogue.

— With such high rates in logistics, the combination is probably not quite reasonable.

- Yes, now is not the best time for agreements. Everyone wants to count its own money, a little peeping into the pocket of competitor. The situation should be more stable, predictable and come to a normal balance in order to start more specific negotiations on this topic. Now it is difficult to agree, because today the rates are like this, tomorrow they rise for some reason, and the day after tomorrow they fall. How to assess the profitability of sea transportation in these circumstances?

"I would not call the relocation of the Great Port of St. Petersburg realistic"

— You opposed Andrey Bokarev's idea to move the terminals of the Great Port of St. Petersburg to Ust-Luga. Has Bokarev reached the owners of terminals with this idea?

- Andrey Ramovich Bokarev and I regularly see each other at the state Transport Commission, we sit opposite and look at each other with great sympathy. But this is the issue we are not discussing.

In my opinion, it is necessary to first work out such initiatives with all interested parties, and only then go with them to the highest level. Because the entire state machinery is being actuated to evaluate the instructions of the head of state on this initiative. This idea will require not multibillion, but trillion costs in order to build some real estate in the former industrial areas of the port of St. Petersburg. But, where is the demand for this property and those who want to buy expensive luxury housing near the water in the former industrial zone?

The most important costs are approaches to roads, railway junctions and tracks that provide transport infrastructure. In addition, this applies to about 1,700 jobs only at our assets in the Great Port, which will need to be transferred to Ust-Luga or Primorsk. Accordingly, these are families, social infrastructure that needs to be built. You can call the project beautiful. But, I would refrain from calling it realistic.

— Now there is a discussion again about the feasibility of building the Moscow— Petersburg HSL, which should load freight lines to the North-West ports. The authorities believe that it is necessary to concentrate all resources at the Eastern operating domain. Do you agree with this?

— If we were rolling in money, we could do everything at once and spend such funds at the same time. I am a supporter of the concept that currently Eastern operating domain is a priority. There are problems with export of coal, transportation of containers and other goods, as well as the maximum number of downtime and abandoned trains. There is no such dramatic increase in cargo traffic in the North-West, and it is not expected.

Of course, I am for convenience for motorists, tourists and other passengers of railway transport. We will have the European Women's Handball Championship in 2026. It would be cool to drive from one arena to another in two hours. But today there is no threat that we will lose some part of the cargo flow due to congestion of the railway in the North-West.

- The head of Russian Railways Oleg Belozerov said that the transportation of goods with a carbon footprint increasingly carries environmental risks for investors, who in some cases refuse loans. Has Delo group faced similar problems?

— In my opinion, rail transportation has the lowest carbon footprint compared to aviation and road transport, so this problem concerns us the least. We have not had any such issues in terms of lending, working with credit institutions and rating agencies.

We are already working up to standards that are currently imposed on transportation within the framework of the green economy, and we will approach this extremely reasonably and carefully.

"Producing is my new hobby"

— There are a lot of sports attributes in your office — a Spartak ball, a figure of a football player in a red and white uniform. Do you support Spartak?

- Yes, I support Spartak. And it's not a figure, it's Fedya Cherenkov. I have some ideas about making films about sports. We are already in the active phase of working on a handball-themed film about the victory of our girls in Rio de Janeiro at the Olympics in 2016. But, it will be a film not only about this, it will be a drama about sports. In my opinion, the best Russian producers are already engaged in this project.

But my dream is also to make a film about Fyodor Cherenkov, who should be called "Fedya" because he is an insanely popular national hero. This man is the era of Russian football. Unlike, for example, Igor Netto, whom our generation did not really know, but did not really remember, Fedya was known and loved by everyone. Probably, producing is my new hobby, which I'm starting to do a little bit. I'm loving it. And I want my children, including the younger generation, to watch a normal movie.

— What is the volume of your investments to support handball?

— My investments in handball after the bonus for the Olympic Games are approaching $40 million. This is a multiple lower than what is invested in football, and the result and reputational achievements, the image of the country has been raised to a much higher level. I have built a good sports base in Abrau-Durso. Today it is filled with constantly training athletes. Moreover, in the summer we opened [there] two new handball gyms of an absolutely amazing level for preparation of the national team.

— Approximately how much money are you willing to invest in producing?

— It all depends on the final product that we want to get. Of course, it's not tens of millions, but still millions of dollars. But, there is something that can be called priceless. If I understand that this is a cinematic product that will become a truly cultural asset of the country, then I am ready to spend more.

Authors: Timofey Dzyadko, Artem Korenyako.

Source: RBC dated 07.12.2021 г.