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The railway will be mastered by the going

The railway will be mastered by the going

Alexei Lebedev, General Director of Mechel-Trans Management Company, spoke in an interview with EastRussia about overcoming the financial crisis and heading to the East, distributing freight traffic and fighting “square wheels”.

- Alexey Viktorovich, against the background of the general crisis, Mechel is in a particularly difficult situation. The parent company is on the verge of bankruptcy, the subsidiaries have a lot of financial problems. How do you intend to turn the tide and do you have your own "plan B"?

- It sounds pompous, but we, as true patriots of our company, are confident that a bright future will come. This confidence is not based on sheer enthusiasm. The vector of decisions taken by the management of the group of companies is correct. We believe that the assets in which Mechel has invested over the past years will bring the group money in the near future. I mean the main investment projects: a rail and structural mill at the Chelyabinsk Metallurgical Plant; development of the Elga deposit, including the construction of a railway to it; as well as technical re-equipment of the Posiet commercial port in Primorye.

Yes, the situation is tense. However, the point is not even in relations with creditors, but in the general crisis - both in Russia and around the world. We are conducting a rather constructive dialogue with creditors. And I think there is a very real opportunity to reach compromises. We are under some pressure, but the company is working. As always and no matter what. Mechel does not abandon its goals, although, of course, we have to take into account the crisis in the economy. We have more resilience than it seems. Instead of pessimistic forecasts, it is better to look at things realistically and think strategically.

- It is not customary to get used to the crises of Russia. Does the experience of 1998 and 2008 help you?

- In 1998 we were not there yet - Mechel appeared in 2003. If we compare the situation with 2008, then hopes for improvement in a global sense are associated with at least a slight economic recovery. As for the devaluation of the ruble, for us, as for any exporters, it is not as tragic as for a business operating exclusively in the Russian markets. For coal and metal that we ship abroad, payments are made in foreign currency. And we have clear and adequate plans for how to develop further.

- And what?

- Historically, Mechel is a mining and metallurgical holding, whose products find consumers both in Russia and abroad. Therefore, the transport division of the company, which I now lead, has always been focused on finding the optimal assets that are reasonable in terms of transport logistics. One of the very promising investments was the Mechel-Temryuk port in the south of Russia. It is not only a matter of its favorable geographical position, taking into account the sales development strategy in the Azov-Black Sea basin. Today, many of the nearest operating ports (in particular, in Novorossiysk) are trying to refuse to transship coal. Temryuk is a universal port, we transship not only coal, but also coke, cement, metal, we are engaged in oil cargo, and we work both with our own cargo and with third parties. We are interested in the Mechel-Temryuk port in terms of increasing competitiveness and reducing operating costs. In 2015, we expect to increase cargo turnover by almost a third, to 1,5 million tons.

Trade port Posiet in the Primorsky Territory is in the logistics segment of the Mechel group, without exaggeration, a “pearl”. We pin our hopes on it both in connection with its exceptionally convenient geographical location, and in the context of geopolitical and economic interests. Fixed assets are now being invested in the technical re-equipment of the port, within the framework of which we plan to reach a transshipment volume of 12 million tons in the coming years. This year we will handle about 5,5 million tons, next year we plan to reach the design capacity of 7 million tons of coal.

In Posyet we started with a classic transshipment scheme: a berth and portal equipment (cranes). The technical re-equipment project provided for the installation of a specialized transshipment port complex. After a series of tender procedures, its construction was entrusted to the respected company ThyssenKrupp on the world market. In a short time, a system of car dumpers was installed - that is, the unloading of coal from the car is not carried out in the old fashioned way, by the grab method (picking up with cranes and buckets), and the car enters the complex and is turned over entirely, which increases the speed of cargo transshipment several times.

Port Posyet Mechel plans to develop further. But this requires additional investment. There are plans to build a deep-water berth for receiving and dispatching cargo by Panamax class vessels - this requires depths of 14-16 meters. In addition, working with such vessels involves the construction of a deep-water approach channel. Here one cannot do without the help of the state, since the water area of ​​the seaport is state-owned. To resolve this issue, we are negotiating with Rosmorport, a state structure that oversees the safety of navigation, the construction of ports, berths, etc. The state is investing in the development of infrastructure, including ports, this is an important strategic goal. We have the necessary capabilities and experience.

- In this regard, the question is: how great is the value of OJSC "Port Vanino" for you now, after all the vicissitudes associated with it?

- The port of Vanino is the closest exit to the APR countries. The logistics for us, if not ideal, then very comfortable. Today the consortium of co-owners of this port gives us the opportunity to transship 250-350 wagons per month. Last year, 3,8 million tons of our coal passed through Vanino. This year there will be about 4,5 million tons. So our interest is mutual. But I cannot compare the value of the ports of Vanino and Posiet - they are incomparable values.

- In many respects, difficulties for large companies in Russian regions are created by the so-called “human factor” - social problems, interaction with local authorities on this basis. Do you have such difficulties in the Far East?

- No, with the heads of Primorye and Khabarovsk Territory, for example, we have an excellent interaction. All arising questions are resolved clearly, regional authorities demonstrate interest in our successful work. We, in turn, bear social responsibility to the employees of our enterprises living in these regions, and fulfill their obligations.

- Can you comment on the latest developments with another large-scale project of the Mechel Group - the construction of a railway to the Elginskoye field in South Yakutia? As far as can be judged, the project was extremely expensive and in the current situation "the cargo can sink the ship", not so right?

- Coal from the Elga deposit has excellent quality characteristics by world standards. The stripping ratio there is 3-4. Coal is almost underfoot. This makes the Elga project extremely attractive for investments. Unfortunately, the field is far from the developed transport infrastructure, and initially there was no other way out than to build a railway to it. In the 2000s, the Ministry of Railways decided to start construction. As a result, the first 60 kilometers of the railway line were laid. In this state, the object went to Mechel. When Yakutugol was acquired in 2007, the license for the development of the Elginskoye deposit and a section of the unfinished railway were attached to it as a package. It can be said that from that moment on, Mechel deliberately headed for the East. It was necessary to build 321 kilometers of railway to Elga. The company invested $ 2,5 billion in this construction. Today we have reached the monthly volume of coal shipment from Elga at 200 thousand tons, which, in turn, in 2015 will allow us to develop approximately 3 million tons per year. Elga development is important not only for Mechel, but for the whole country. In addition to the huge already proven reserves of coal, there is also molybdenum, and gold, and iron ore. USSR Minister of Geology Yevgeny Kozlovsky once noted that this is "a raw material base worth more than $ 600 billion." All these riches now lie close to the laid railroad tracks. It is possible to develop such deposits only with the attraction of investments, but these funds and the return will give colossal. In the current economic situation, Russian coal miners get a real chance to increase their competitiveness in the Asia-Pacific markets due to the relative proximity of a number of deposits to the Far East port facilities.

- Recently, it has been constantly said that China is developing a "new Silk Road" with container shipments in 8-12 days instead of 45 current by sea, in connection with which the Trans-Siberian and BAM may "empty", unable to withstand competition, and therefore develop they make no sense. Do you share these concerns?

- The position of Russian Railways today is pragmatic. The reconstruction of BAM and Transsib follows a simple logic: if there is a road, there will be life. The project is aimed at increasing the share of exports of the same coal. According to statistics, in the Asia-Pacific region, Russian coal accounts for about 5-6% of imports. Agree, not much. If you look at the situation in the context of the development of the Far East, then industrialists, railroad workers and port workers are "in the same team." Development programs for the coal industry in Russia, sea port infrastructure, development of the Eastern landfill - they logically complement each other. The amount of cargo passing through the Eastern landfill today, in general, is sufficient to maintain the existing capacity without development. But "live" investment projects like Elginsky require more. Therefore, when calculating investments for the reconstruction of the railway infrastructure of the Eastern landfill (562 billion rubles), the cargo base of the Elga field was also considered - 12 million tons per year.

- How are your relationships with RZD developing? Is there still an agreement that the already constructed branch to the Elginsky deposit will be transferred to their ownership?

- We have, in my opinion, quite fruitful cooperation and good working relations. We are in constant contact with all the specialized services of Russian Railways. Today, Russian Railways has set a course for development, and the vector is shifting from an infrastructure company to a customer-oriented transport and logistics company, at the same time the largest in Europe, in this connection, new logistics products are constantly offered to us - customers, consignors and consignees. So, in particular, we took great pleasure in their initiative to introduce the so-called KTLO service - an integrated transport and logistics service. In other words, the movement of goods along "tight schedule lines". By and large, this is the same as buying a ticket for a passenger on the Nevsky Express and arriving from Moscow to St. Petersburg exactly on schedule. Our coal trains are sent by rail on a pre-formed schedule. We, as cargo owners, are vitally interested in ensuring that the logistics are clear and that we can plan further work: freight, supply of ships, arrangement of port facilities for a specific consignment of cargo.

As for the transfer of the Ulak-Elga branch to Russian Railways, this issue has long been on the crest of the "information wave". Such an acquisition would allow Russian Railways to quickly increase the volume of cargo transportation ... Much depends on the financial component. As you know, Russian Railways has its own debt burden. But everyone understands that this section of the railway on a national scale is significant for the future development of the Far East, therefore, state support would be fully justified. So far, unfortunately, the economic situation in the country is not developing in favor of such a decision.

- Who are your closest competitors? How do they affect the operation of Mechel's transport enterprises?

- Mechel-Trans is a completely independent subdivision, we work independently and in absolutely market conditions. Mechel's transport division carries out not only transshipment of goods in ports, but also transport - rail and road transport. Today, our transport and logistics flows are distributed in the proportion of 30 to 70. That is, 30% - the central and western parts of Russia and 70% - the Far East.

We are a captive (intercompany) transport operator. The efficiency of having our own railway or automobile fleet is assessed according to the key criterion - optimization of transport costs. If we talk about railway transport, which makes up the bulk of our fleet, then it is 12 thousand gondola cars. The total volume of transportation is about 50 million tons of cargo per year (coal, metals, iron ore concentrate, etc.). With our own fleet we transport more than 25% of this volume, the rest is distributed among the leading players in the railway transport market.

Our main strategic partner in railway transport is Federal Freight Company JSC, which was founded by Russian Railways. We also work with operators of such large parks as Freight One, RG - Trans, ZapSib-Transservice, Globaltrans, RT-Operator and others. We are in a market environment and we also apply market rates for the Mechel Group. Our own fleet is mainly leased, we carry a fairly high financial burden - with which we cope. Let me note that leasing companies are meeting us halfway. In particular, we managed to restructure the leasing portfolio with VTB Leasing in the course of negotiations.

In the logistics business, a large-scale approach is important and, at the same time, flexibility. One of the main directions for us now has become the service of third-party clients, both with our own and with an external fleet. In what, in fact, professionalism is manifested - in the ability to be attractive in the market both in terms of the quality of services and their cost, to find optimal solutions, and to fully control cargo flows. Nothing is impossible. And so that the wheel does not become square, it needs to be constantly spinning. “He who walks will master the road” is an old truth, it is repeated by everyone and always. It forms the basis of our today's ideology in the best possible way. And while there are disputes about the future of the Mechel Group, while we are being “divided into parts”, etc., we continue to work intensively. We don't hide our head in the sand, we don't tear our shirt on our chest. And we know for sure that everything is judged by deeds and achievements.


Mechel-Trans Management Company LLC is part of the Mechel Group of Companies. It specializes in the transportation of goods by rail, road and water transport, and also provides transport and forwarding services. The main activity of the company is the organization of domestic and export-import transportation. It transports coal concentrate, bituminous coal, iron ore concentrate, metal, crushed stone, coke and iron ore pellets, which are sold both within the country and abroad. Taking into account the scale of production and location of the enterprises belonging to the Mechel Group, as well as the markets for the products, the geography of transportation covers almost the entire continent.

General Director - Aleksey Viktorovich Lebedev (appointed in December 2013, previously headed Mechel-Trans Auto LLC).

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