Japan’s NYK has bought a 51% controlling stake in Russian vehicle logistics provider Rolf SCS, a division of the Rolf Group, in a new joint venture designed to enhance finished vehicle logistics services in Russia and expand the customer base of each company. Rolf will retain the remaining 49% stake.

The joint venture will combine NYK’s ocean forwarding strength with Rolf’s established finished vehicles services in Russia, including its terminal network, which involves vehicle processing at the port of Zarubino near Vladivostok on the Russian East Coast and at the Petrolsport terminal at the port of St Petersburg, where NYK already calls in addition to its presence at the St Petersburg Sea Commercial Port and at Ust Luga.
NYK has been operating its own terminal (ICO) in Belgium and has a 50% stake in UECC, which provides feeder services for vehicles within Europe. "Putting these established assets together with Rolf SCS' assets, we will build up the most efficient logistics to and inside Russia," said a spokesman for the company. The Petrolsport terminal in St Petersburg will provide a node between ocean transport by NYK/UECC and inland transport by Rolf SCS and expand the customer base as a 'neutral' terminal according to the company.
The use of the Zarubino terminal could also be useful given NYK’s established support for carmakers including Chang’an Mazda Ford and its use of the port. Two years ago NYK was looking for new business in the local Russian market and considering automotive transport services from ports in China and Europe. This latest development appears to indicate a step forward in those plans but there remain challenges at the Russian ports, which need further upgrades to accommodate larger car carrier vessels and greater storage space at the terminals to handle large volumes of vehicle imports, Zarubino being a case in point.
That said, an example of how the relationship is already working was seen last month when Rolf SCS unloaded more than 3,500 vehicles in just six and half hours at the Petrolsport terminal from two NYK carriers – the Coral Leader, carrying around 3,200 vehicles and the Autobank, carrying nearly 400. The Mitsubishi, Volvo and Citroën vehicles where then transported by Rolf trucks to dealerships in Russia. The record throughput beat a previous unloading of more than 2,000 vehicles during one night from four separate car carriers set two months ago.
NYK confirmed that it is looking at potential development at Zarabino based on customer requirements as well as looking at expanding the scope of its port operations around the Black Sea.
Inland services
The new joint venture will also be able to draw on the support of Rolf SCS’ inland facilities at the finished vehicle terminal in Lobnya near Moscow and its customs terminal and technical service centre at St Petersburg following the agreement Rolf signed with bonded warehouse provider Elite-Trans back in 2007.
In addition, Rolf has leases a finished vehicle terminal in Naberezhnye Chelny that opened last year. Naberezhnye Chelny is the hometown of Kamaz and Sollers.
“The launch of the joint venture gives us a wonderful opportunity to take Rolf SCS to a brand new level,” said Igor Salita, CEO of the Rolf Group. “This JV will be a symbiosis of NYK’s 127 years of experience and their global network, including ports, terminals and ferries, with Rolf SCS’ expertise in the Russian market and its strong relationship with customers.”
NYK said it will also be linking its own land transport and processing assets. "We will provide overall auto logistics services not only in trailer transportation but also in rail, terminals and customs clearance in collaboration with our owned assets in China (trailers and terminals) and Kazakhstan, [namely] the rail terminal in Almaty.
Rolf SCS’ existing management team will lead the new joint venture, working in cooperation with NYK representatives. Alexander Larin, who is now CEO of Rolf’s logistics business, will be CEO of the new joint company, which will retain the Rolf SCS’ name.
NYK said it would consider increasing its shares in Rolf SCS in the future depending on the business environment.