India and Russia are interested in opening the Chennai-Vladivostok sea route and a stakeholder meeting is planned for September to work out the details, Union Minister for Ports, Shipping and Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal said.
The Vladivostok – Chennai route passes through the Sea of Japan, the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca.
According to Sonowal, the route will cut transportation time to 12 days, nearly a third of the time taken by the existing popular St. Petersburg-Mumbai route.
At the same time, costs are expected to drop significantly – “by about 30 percent,” sources said.
The current sea route from St. Petersburg to Mumbai is said to be 8,675 nautical miles (16,000 km). In contrast, the planned route Vladivostok – Chennai is said to be 5,647 nautical miles (10,500 km) long.
“Discussions are underway on the operationalization of the Vladivostok-Chennai sea route. This is a 10 to 12 day itinerary and vessels using this route result in time and cost savings. In May, Russian officials came to India to conduct a feasibility study. And we (Indian officials) were there few months ago to check the infrastructure and other facilities there. A stakeholder meeting is planned for September,” he said in an interview.
Those familiar with the discussions say that one of the issues discussed is the improvement and possible rerouting of the access roads to the port of Vladivostok; While there are some design issues there, that too needs attention.
“Whether we need further investment and what issues need to be clarified by both sides will be discussed at the September meeting,” Sonowal added.
During the 2019 visit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoI) on “Development of Maritime Communications between Port of Vladivostok and Port of Chennai”.
According to Sonowal, the new route would also give India access to the Far East, including countries like Mongolia, and the largest presence in Southeast Asia.
While exports from Russia could include coal, crude oil and LNG in addition to commodities such as apples and kiwis; Deliveries from India could include construction machinery, building materials and pharmaceuticals, among others.