Keen to increase traffic and ensure commercial viability of the Chennai - Vladivostok route, India’s Shipping Ministry, businesses and Russian stakeholders are working on agreements to firm up cargo movement details along this Eastern Maritime Corridor. Also under discussion is the possibility of having dedicated shipping services. 

Over the next three to six months, concrete action plans and (operational) proposals have been sought, a senior official of the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways said. 

Some trial shipments are taking place. And there is a visible demand for shipping of crude oil and coking coal (mostly imports), the official explained. 

Sarbananda Sonowal, the Union Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, recently told businessline: “Talks are progressing well. We hope to get the route operationalised as quickly as possible. Feasibility discussions are on.” 

Business Meetings 

A workshop was held some months back (Nov 2023) in Chennai where stakeholders were told to work on the operational details, tap business opportunities and also “ensure commercial viability” of cargo movement along the route. 

A senior Ministry official aware of the discussions said, substantial interest was generated towards use of the route for shipping of coking coal. Coking coal is a key steel-making raw material of which India is amongst the largest importers. Russia is also amongst the top three suppliers to mills here. 

In fact, one of the largest steel-makers of the country is exploring the possibility of using the corridor for bringing in its coking coal supplies. 

“Coking coal import along the route is happening. And, if the steel-maker’s plans fructify you will see a substantial increase in numbers,” the official said. 

“Towards end-2023 there was a meeting between stakeholders of the Russian side and their Indian counterparts in Chennai,” the official said. He said that Indian officials are expected to again visit Vladivostok soon to ensure faster execution and to operationalise this route. “Our internal assessment says this route will mostly see crude oil and coking coal movement, and not much of container traffic is expected here,” the official added. 

The proposed Vladivostok - Chennai route reduces the travel distance between the two countries to 5,600 nautical miles, from the current shipping route of 8,675 nautical miles from St Petersburg to Mumbai. 

The Eastern Maritime Corridor is estimated to bring down transportation time between Indian and Russian ports of the Far-East Region by nearly 50 per cent (20 - 24 days, or even lower, from the current 40 days) as compared to the currently used Suez and Panama Canal routes. 

The last numbers of the Indian Ports Association show that there was a 5 per cent Y-o-Y growth in traffic at the Chennai port (one of the major ports in the country) to 43.06 million tonnes (mt) for the April - Jan period. Traffic in the year-ago period was 41.06 mt. The increase came on the back of a 4 per cent Y-o-Y rise in POL (petroleum, oil and lubricants) shipments to 12.13 mt (vs 11.7 mt); and a near 8 per cent rise in container cargo to 26 mt.