Sunday, April 22, 2012

Potential Russian Rail Cargo Interest in National Cargo Carrier

Rzd Move for BDZ?
Shipping News Feature

RUSSIA – BULGARIA – After rumours last week in the press of both countries it seems likely that Russian Railways (RzD) is looking at taking over the profitable freight arm of BDZ, the national rail carrier of Bulgaria. Despite having several offices in the region RzD does not have an official presence in the country yet still cooperate with BDZ on some projects and analysts believe that the Bulgarian tracks are of value as a direct route for goods from the Far East transiting into Europe.

Officials in Bulgaria have declared that there has been no interest from Russian, or indeed Turkish, companies in buying all or part of BDZ but the group is known to be losing vast amounts of money in its present form with only the freight arm deemed at all profitable. RzD is known to have already assisted Bulgaria’s neighbour, Serbia, with finance for its own rail infrastructure as it has previously with Slovakia. The Bulgarian regulator did however confirm Spanish, Italian and Austrian interest in the privatisation of BZD.

The transit route from the Greek port of Thessalonika is cited as the prime reason for the possible deal. A Western observer will notice the sometimes baffling complexity of shipping rail freight currently through Bulgaria with the documentary and freight tariff systems harking back to the old Eastern bloc days with rates dependent on routes, tariff agreements and with various exceptions prescribed.

It is RzD’s sworn aim to link as many points as possible to the Trans Siberian route and the Russian group is believed to be looking at other rail freight carriers in order to expand its cargo base, tying all in the national broad gauge (1,520mm) track. It is believed RzD is pursuing the possibility of buying stakes in Polish, Slovakian, Greek and perhaps even Ukrainian rail cargo groups in order to extend its sphere of influence.