Lithuania has banned the transit of Belarusian potash with the annual export volume estimated at 11 million tonnes. On the back of the US imposed sanctions, other Baltic countries refuse to deal with fertilizers exported from Belarus. Now the Belarusian authorities are feverishly looking for alternative routes through friendly Russia.
The obstacle here is that Russia itself has to transship about 8 million mineral fertilizers per year through the ports of the neighboring Latvia and Estonia, while dedicated terminals are still under construction. The already commissioned Ultramar is increasing the transshipment of fertilizers. This year it should reach a capacity of 12 million tonnes per year. The facility will be handling primarily fertilizers from Russian manufacturers with long-term contracts.
The non-specialized terminals of Ust-Luga and St. Petersburg last year also increased the volume of fertilizers, but their capacities are extremely limited. The ports of the Russian Baltic basin are not yet able to “digest” 11 million tonnes of Belarusian potassium.
What else might be involved? Murmansk - there are also not enough capacities. According to the registry of Russian seaports in Murmansk, the capacity for transshipment of fertilizers is about 3 million tonnes, while in fact even more was transshipped in 2021. Arkhangelsk? This port is heavily busy handling project cargo and supplies for Arctic projects. Add to this the inconvenient transportation leg to these northern ports and the whole economy of such a scheme will go down the drain.
It’s possible to rush to the ports of the Southern Basin. However, the haul distance here is three times greater than on the Lithuanian route. In addition, the capacities available there are insignificant and also do not stand idle, and they are not able to receive 11 million tonnes of potassium from Belarus. For comparison: less than 3.5 million tonnes of fertilizers were transshipped through all ports of the South Basin of Russia in 2021.
Besides, there is a difficult situation on the railway and the fact that against the backdrop of record prices for fertilizers in the world, which are likely to be rolled back, Russian producers themselves are interested in increasing export deliveries - and no one is willing to give up scarce capacities for the extra volume from Belarus.
Of course, it’s possible to “scatter” a little accross different terminals, but how much will it be? Most likely, it will not even reach 2 million tonnes per year. Most likely, this will all end. At least until new capacities are commissioned in the Baltic, but by that time, as the old saying goes, either the Shah shortly perishes or the donkey pops off...