Russia has shown interest in sending a business delegation to Chennai to explore business opportunities, including developing an alternative maritime route between Vladivostok and the southern metropolis.

This was conveyed to Union Minister of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal during a meeting in Vladivostok with a Russian delegation led by Sergey Mochalnikov, Deputy Minister of Energy Minister, Russian Federation, and Maxim Reshetnikov from the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, an official statement said.

Mr Sonowal also extended an invitation for an Indo-Russian workshop on the Eastern Maritime Corridor in Chennai to provide a common meeting ground among the port authorities of Russia Far East and India, Russian railways, logistics and shipping companies of both countries, coking coal trade transporters of India and Russia among others.

The Russian government expressed their desire to visit the Chennai port with a large business delegation to explore opportunities and possibilities through bilateral discussions, the statement said.

Speaking on the occasion, the union minister said the operationalisation of Eastern the Maritime Corridor (EMC) will usher in a new era of trade relationship between India and Russia.

“Under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India remains firmly committed to making innovative solutions that will enhance and further foster the strong bilateral relationship between our two great nations.

“As our teams hedged their effort for early operationalisation of EMC, the visit to Vladivostok, Vostochny, Nakhodka, and Kozmino was particularly helpful. Taking this forward, I propose a workshop of all stakeholders at Chennai in India and extend our invitation to this workshop where we can meet, interact and discuss for smooth and swift operationalisation of EMC,” he said.

Sonowal was addressing the session aimed at forging possibilities for early operationalisation of EMC as an alternative trade route between the Russian port city of Vladivostok and Chennai.

The workshop is proposed to take place from October 30 to November 1, 2023, in Chennai.

Referring to India’s maritime programme and its flagship programme Sagarmala, Sonowal said in 2015, the transformative flagship initiative of Sagarmala was launched with the objective of boosting India’s logistics sector performance, by unlocking the full potential of India’s coastline and waterways.

The vision of Sagarmala is to reduce logistics costs for both domestic and EXIM cargo with optimised infrastructure investment through port-led development, he said.

Currently, there are 802 projects worth investment of more than $65 billion for implementation under the Sagarmala project by 2035. Out of which, 228 projects worth $14.6 billion have been completed and 260 projects worth $27 billion are under implementation.

Further, 314 projects worth $24 billion are under various stages of development. Further, under the holistic development of coastal districts, a total of 567 projects with an estimated cost of around $7 billion have been identified.

The Eastern Maritime Corridor is estimated to reduce the time required to transport cargo between Indian and Russian Ports of the Far East region by up to 16 days, i.e., 24 days in comparison to over 40 days currently taken to transport goods from India to Far East Russia via Europe.

The present trade route between Mumbai in India and St. Petersburg in Russia covers a distance of 8,675 nautical miles which takes approximately 35 to 40 days. The Chennai-Vladivostok sea route (EMC) will cover a distance of about 5,600 nautical miles. A large container ship that travels at the normal cruising speed of 20-25 knots (37-46 km/hour), will be able to cover this distance in approximately 10 to 12 days.

This corridor holds immense potential to unlock new opportunities for trade and cooperation, the statement said.