Kremlin trying to divert Belarusian oil shipments to Russian ports

Russian state-owned rail company Rossiyskie Zheleznye Dorogi (Russian Railways) is considering a 25% discount to gasoline, diesel fuel and fuel oil transit charges from Belarusian refineries to Russian northwestern ports, reported Wednesday.

That's what Belarus' Naviny reported via Russia's Kommersant. Naviny reported that the discount could make rail transit charges similar to that of Baltic ports Ventspils and Klaipēda.

To date, oil products have not been shipped from Belarus to Russian ports, said Kommersant.

However experts say that shipping via Russia has several weak points.

"There's a straight route from Novopolotsk to Rīga port via Daugavpils. In seven to eight hours it's already by a ship at the port. But on the way to St. Petersburg you have to make practically two switches. It takes a day and a half longer," said Minsk-based expert Valeri Kozlov from the Society of Logistics Engineers.

He said that while the Russian tariff can be made similar to the of the Baltics, deliveries will take longer, increasing the risk of force majeure situation. 

Secondly, he said, Belarusian companies have invested a lot of money in Baltic port infrastructure, and Belarusian businesses have well-established ties with Latvian enterprises that would have to be started from scratch with Russian businesses should petroleum transit be redirected.

In September Russia's Transneft announced it'll cease oil product deliveries through foreign Baltic ports by 2018.

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