RZD wants to know all prices and tariffs of counterparties

“Russian Railways” (RZD) proposes to create a state system for monitoring commodity and transport markets. The monopoly itself, as RZD proposes, at the first stage of operation of such a system, will receive the authority to collect information about the cost of providing railway carriages by operators “at the time of submitting an application or handing over cargo.” Russian Railways sent a letter with relevant proposals to Deputy Minister of Transport Valentin Ivanov on July 22, and it was sent to industry associations to collect feedback. “Vedomosti” got acquainted with the document, its receipt was confirmed by the addressees.

The representative of Russian Railways explained to Vedomosti that the tariffs of the carrier (Russian Railways) are set by the state and are “fully public”. At the same time, according to him, other participants of the transport market – operators of wagons, marine terminals and shipping companies – set the price of services, “focusing exclusively on their own profit, often not taking into account the interests of the state and the social significance of the transportation of individual cargoes.” “Information about the cost of their services is closed. This enables various manipulations, including differentiation of prices for different clients,” the interlocutor emphasized. In addition, according to him, there is no possibility of an objective assessment of the profitability of deliveries of Russian products to international markets.

Previously, when evaluating the profitability of export deliveries of the Russian Railways, data from the international price agency Argus Media and the Ukrainian LLC “Metal Courier” were used (magazine “Promyshlennye cargo”). But in the conditions of negative international rhetoric and attitude towards Russia, the information of foreign publications is published “in a limited form, and may also turn out to be unreliable,” states the letter of the Russian Railways to the Ministry of Transport.

The Ministry of Transport and Rosmorrechflot did not respond to Vedomosti’s requests.

In FAS, the idea of ​​RZD was perceived critically. The representative of the service told “Vedomosti” that “it is inappropriate to provide the subject of a natural monopoly (a market participant providing services within the logistics chain) with information about the activities and conditions of service provision by other market participants – ports, operators and owners of rolling stock, etc.” At the same time, the proposal to create a single institute for monitoring and publishing cost information on commodity and transport markets, according to the FAS, “requires discussion of mechanisms” involving railcar and seaport operators in its work.

Participants of the transportation market were also very wary of RZD’s proposals. The source of “Vedomosti” in a large operator company noted that even if the decision “on mass data collection” is adopted, it is better to transfer these functions to an independent and disinterested state body or organization. “Having made tariffs transparent, it is possible to show what they are made of, how this affects the efficiency of the carrier’s work. On the other hand, this kind of analysis, being in the possession of one of the market participants before its publication, can disrupt competition,” he says.

Denis Semenkin, the vice-chairman of the Association of Railway Rolling Stock Operators (AOZHDPS), believes that, coming out with such an initiative, the Russian Railways pursues its own interests, not the shippers or the state as a whole. He reminded that from July 2022, the Russian Railways raised the tariff for transportation, arguing that, taking into account the drop in the rates of operators of freight cars, the transport component for shippers will remain the same. “Similar experience of RZD is likely to be used in the future,” he believes. Also, according to Semenkin, the presence of accurate information on operator rates will help RZD to assess the profitability of this or that segment of transportation, and at the right time for the monopoly to buy or sell rolling stock, attract investors, create new divisions, develop its own business.

The interlocutor of “Vedomosti” in the river shipping company reminded that the industry has been trying for many years from the Russian Railways to refuse additional discounts during the high season of summer transportation, which coincides with the time of river and sea navigation. He considers such discounts to be dumping, which “takes the last crumbs from the dead river fleet”

The representative of the Eurasian Union of Participants in Railway Freight Transportation (ESP) noted that the provision of price information on a mandatory basis can be carried out by commercial companies “exclusively at the request of state bodies”. “Participants of the wagon operation market already regularly provide FAS with information on rates that RZD can use,” – adds a source in the operator company.

The FAS representative reminds that since April 2022, the department has been monitoring the transport component in the cost of the main types of cargo (coal, metals, ore, etc.) transported along the main routes “in order to assess the influence of various factors on the market situation.” At the same time, the operators of sea ports, reminds the source of “Vedomosti” in the stevedoring company, are subjects of natural monopolies and are obliged to publish on their websites and provide, upon request, information regarding tariffs and fees.

Semenkin also considers the argument about the lack of alternatives to “Metal Courier” untenable, since in Russia the magazine “RZD Partner” started collecting data about operators, which, by analogy with the Ukrainian edition, provides information on car rental rates, daily profitability, etc.

General Director of “Infoline-analytika” Mikhail Burmistrov believes that business fears that RZD wants to gain unjustified competitive advantages are logical. He reminds that the “daughters” of RZD are themselves participants in the transportation market, this is a whole series of operating companies – Federal Cargo Company, “RZD Logistics”, “RZD Business Asset”. Burmistrov added that if the operator concludes, for example, a long-term contract with a large shipper, then he is not obliged to disclose its details (directions and volumes of deliveries, cost of renting wagons, etc.).

Guided by the federal law “On commercial secrets” to protect information that is directly related to customers, operators have the right to establish a regime of commercial secrecy and take measures to protect the confidentiality of such information, explains a source in the operator company.

The managing director of the rating service of the NRA, Sergey Grishunin, adds that the Russian Railways needs to collect information about rates, including for substantiating disputes about the cost of transportation. “Consumers often complain to the Russian Railways authorities about the cost of rail transportation. At the same time, the Russian Railways is responsible only for the infrastructural component and does not have reliable information about the full cost of transportation,” he explained.

“The situation is similar with ports: tariffs for “friendly” and “unfriendly” companies can differ multiple times, but in the case of complex transportation, it is the Russian Railways that faces accusations that cargo from Russia loses competition on the world market due to the transport and loading component”, – Grishunin added.

At the same time, Grishunin and Burmistrov consider the idea of ​​creating a Russian price and tariff agency, such as Argus Media, to be correct. According to Grishunin, the creation of such an agency can cost from 500 million to 1.5 billion rubles. “In the absence of a comprehensive and reliable assessment of the transport and commodity markets, Russian exports can seriously suffer, and it is now unsafe to rely only on data from foreign sources,” he notes.

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