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Maersk concerned about Russia - EU relationship

Maersk has a great deal at stake in light of the crisis in Russia. The Group has invested billions and spent a lot of resources on building its vital network in the region. Now the major shipping and oil conglomerate is concerned about the development of the relationship between Russia and the EU.

Photo: Mikhail Metzel

If there is one singly company that stands to take a serious hit from a deteriorating relationship between Russia and the west, that company would be the Maersk Group. This goes for the carrier's transport of containers from the country, especially from St. Petersburg and APM Terminals' one-third stake in Russia's largest port group, Global Ports, as well as for the Maersk Group's general ambitions of growing its business with the Russians, not least in the energy field.

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This is perhaps why the Maersk Group has remained silent so far, awaiting developments on Crimea, along with the reactions of the EU and the United States. But following the escalation of the already tense situation on Crimea, and the sharpened tone from the EU, Anders Würtzen, Head of Public Affairs at the Maersk Group, mailed this comment to ShippingWatch:

"We are of course, like everyone else, following the developments in the relationship between Russia and the EU with concerns, but our investments and businesses in Russia will continue unchanged in accordance with entered agreements."

Global Ports for USD 926 million

The biggest and most high profile Russian investment is stock-listed Global Ports. A company that - after the acquisition of its biggest competitor in Russia, NCC was finally settled last year with APM Terminals as one the two primary shareholders - has become significantly stronger and has secured a dominant role in several key ports in Russia.

Global Ports is especially present in the Far East, through the company Vostochnaya Stevedoring Company, in the town of Vostochny by the Pacific Coast, as well as in the Baltic Sea, where the company has interest in the Baltic staes (Ust-Luga), Finland, and - crucially - St. Petersburg. When ShippingWatch in late January interviewed Global Ports COO Roy Cummins, he pointed to the south and the Black Sea when asked to mention new potential investments.

Maersk Line is represented by ZAO Maersk in Russia. The first office was established in St. Petersburg in August 1992. Today Maersk has offices in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Novorossiysk, Vladivostok, Vostochnoya, as well as agencies in Korsakov.

A strategic investor

The Maersk Group is known for its close ties to - and frequent contact with - the political leadership in Moscow. As Putin's right-hand man, Sergei Ivanov, wrote on the Kremlin website following a meeting with Maersk Group CEO Nils Smedegaard Andersen approx. one year ago:

”Russia considers Moller-Maersk a strategic investor. The company has already invested around $1 billion in Russian projects and plans to continue its activities here …”

Red and blue stars meet in Russia

And when Vladimir Puting was on an official state visit to Denmark in April 2011, the only place he visited besides the Ministry of State and the Royal Palace was the Maersk Group headquarters in Copenhagen.

The Global Ports investment alone is worth USD 926 million.

Several EU sanctions against Russia could be imminent, following the meeting of political leaders in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

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