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The Norwegian commodity trader located in a European hub 161 expressed that one major reason why Norway was not attractive for international traders was the tax regime in force here. The level of taxes and financial regulations even made traders to leave the international trading hub London in favor of Geneva, Zug and other cities in Switzerland.
The cost level in Norway is also considered as a very high for international shipping operations.
If favorable financial regulations are introduced to promote this type of business, the country might not be considered stable and predictable for business due to changing governments with different policies and approaches. 162 Also, the geographical location of an international trading hub has a great impact on how it can
operate and what roles it can play:
The importance of a hub like Rotterdam is based on the fact that all shipping routes in Europe go to Rotterdam. 163 There is also large traffic to Hamburg, Amsterdam, Antwerp etc., but there are no forwarders or transporters serving these ports but not Rotterdam. On the other side, there are plenty of forwarders serving only Rotterdam, but not the other port hubs. In addition comes that the port and the hinterland of Rotterdam is connected to a very well developed transport infrastructure to all the rest of Europe. That is why it is so important to be located here.
The access to significant and educated work force is another critical factor, which Rotterdam can offer. The port is not only a logistic center, but also a large industrial hub where large quantities of goods is being traded, repacked and processed every day. 164 This requires a significant workforce, which is possible to mobilize e.g. through RussianNorwegian agreements regarding Russian citizens access to the Norwegian labor market as well as utilization of the open labor market in EU.
The hinterland between the north Norwegian ports and central Europe, or other significantly big markets and industrial areas, represents another challenge for North Norway due to long distances; but this is only in case intermodal transport by vessel, truck and/or train is required.
Bodø and Narvik are the only ports connected to railroad in North Norway; Bodø to the long and relatively poor national grid giving access to the international grid only in the south, while Narvik has direct and shorter access to the better developed Swedish network, which also offers relatively short distance to the Finish and Russian grid. Connection to the Trans European Transport Network is a key element for efficient transport through the hinterland.
If a cargo owner discharging in a north Norwegian port will consider options for further transport of the goods, transport by road or rail will not offer any competitive solution for transit of larger volumes of goods through Norway (we are here disregarding the new project in Narvik, as it is based on a different scope).
www.toll.no Anonymous source, information based on confidentiality.
See previous footnote.
Ellen Groeneveld, Managing Director of Elkem Maritime Center in Rotterdam, 17 November 2011.
See previous footnote.
The idea of creating a maritime trading facility in North Norway should therefore be focusing on
transshipment and/or repacking based on one of the following models:
1. Facilities doing international trade of raw materials and other cargoes on location.
2. Storing and transshipping facilities based on international trading from other location in Norway or from abroad.
3. Developing one or more north Norwegian ports to transshipment and storage hubs in cooperation with international port operators, cargo owners and/or forwarders.
Option No 1 seems likely to materialize only if the basis will be physical handling of cargo in North Norway while the most of the formal trade is taking place elsewhere, where there are established trade environment and mechanisms.
This is a very specialized business conducted in an adapted environment, which includes a concentration of traders. The independent traders as well as those working for specific companies are forming hubs in Switzerland, London, Singapore, Tokyo, etc. Trading resources not operating in these environments are usually located with the trading departments at the HQ of the commodity owners.
This is a situation North Norway share with key cargo hubs like Oslo and Gothenburg, and key international cargo hubs like Rotterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg: the formal trade does usually not take place where the physical cargo is being handled.
Option No 2 represents an opportunity for north Norwegian ports and logistic hubs when a passing cargo changes ownership through the international trading chains and the fulfillment of the transaction requires the cargo to be unloaded or transshipped in port. If succeeding in attracting such operations to ports in North Norway, it could contribute to a significant increase in the local cash flow and create an important incentive.
The development of North Norwegian hub ports to international trading hubs could also include cooperation with international commodity traders having networks of approved warehouses spread around the world, forming basis for this type of operations. It could also aim on cooperating with key European hubs, like Port of Rotterdam, to attract them to establish departments or branches of their businesses in a new strategic area of North Europe.
This option will require further investigation which is beyond the financial frame of this limited study. It will have to rely on a model where significant volumes of the future raw materials being shipped from Northwest Russia to the West will be reloaded, preliminary stored and/or separated to be redistributed to several customers. This either due to the way the goods are being traded, or due to the necessity of using different size or types of vessels during the voyage.
Option No 3 is similar to the previous, but focuses less on the element of operations based on international traders in favor of direct cooperation with producers of raw material (which in many cases do not sell their commodities through external traders and/or on the exchanges but directly to end-users), forwarders, ports etc. It might therefore be prospective on basis of practical requirements in the process of bringing cargo from A to B.
For Russian customers, the actual results of the ongoing efforts to modernize the Russian ports of Arkhangelsk, Belomorsk and Murmansk and to connect them with better road- and railroad infrastructure will have a direct effect on north Norway. Russia aims to modernize those ports as to handle the country's growing cargo flow with the future utilization of petroleum resources in the region, and to handle an expected heavy cargo flow via the Northern Sea Route. Russian traders and cargo owners naturally can be interested in shorten the "export leg" to the west.
Even if it is still difficult to predict how the traffic on the Northern Sea Route will develop, and what type/size of vessels eventually will be operating the distance, there is presently a general expectation a significant part of the cargo being transported here will arrive with smaller ships, and that there will be a need for storage and transshipping hubs in both ends of the Route.
In addition, large Russian cargo owners, like Severstal, have at occasions been considering the use of ports in North Norway in their operations.
In an environment where north Norwegian ports will be in position to offer more efficient and financially more beneficial operations on behalf of Russian cargo owners, there are possibilities to transform ports into transshipment and storage hubs for Russian cargo owners in a way beneficial for both Russia and Norway. This will require a sort of binding agreements between the operators to secure a basis for the economy related to investments required, which can be done through joint investments and joint ownership.
Options No 2 and 3 are equally relevant. Identification of relevant foreign investors and partners as well as definition of specific ports based on specific requirements should be subject for a separate study, but taken into account an identified need for the North Norwegian
transshipment hubs to serve Russian cargo flow, investors could also be found outside Russia:
Given a significant increase in container transport and bulk passing North Cape in both directions, it would be relevant to discuss with major European ports, as Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg, creation of a satellite in North Norway.
Large international traders with close links to the Russian market should be considered. The energy trader Gunvor recently tried to purchase the Russian Government's 25 percent stake in Murmansk Trade Sea Port, but the deal did not materialize as the parties did not agree the price.
Instead, Gunvor is now trying to be a part of the development of the new Lavna port terminal on the western shore of the Kola Bay, together with the coal exporters SDS-Coal and Kuzbassrazrezugol (KZRU). 165 Also Finland has shown significant interest in reaching one of the northernmost Norwegian ports by construction of a railroad from Rovaniemi. This is to get direct access to the Arctic seas for both import/export and to ease the access to future industrial development projects for Finish industry. With a railroad constructed, Finland will also have an objective interest in developing ports in the north for both transshipping, storing, transit transport and, possibly, industrial hubs. Finish companies would also be potential co-owners of a port infrastructure, but this also needs further investigations.
Newsflash from the Netherlands Consulate in St Petersburg, 21 June 2011; Argus Media, 23 August 2011.