(EnergyAsia, January 15 2013, Tuesday) — Mechel, a leading Russian mining and metals company, said it has completed the acquisition of a 55% stake in a Pacific port that will enable it to expand coal exports to the Asian markets.

Mechel said the Russian government approved the offer by logistics subsidiary Mecheltrans to acquire the controlling stake in Vanino Sea Trade Port OAO for 15.5-billion rouble. (US$1=30 rouble).

The company was awarded the bid in a December 7 auction for Port Vanino in the Strait of Tartary’s Vanina Bay which links the Sea of Okhotsk and Sea of Japan. As one of Russia’s 10 largest ports, Vanino is the largest transport hub in the Khabarovsk region.

Mechel plans to expand the year-round port, which serves north-eastern Russia, Japan, South Korea, China, Australia, the US and the Pacific markets, into a major hub as well as consolidate the company’s position as one of the world’s largest producers of metallurgical coals.

“The acquisition was made in line with the company’s strategy of developing its mining division in a bid to expand its export capacities and reduce transport costs in line with planned increases in coal mining volumes,” said Russia’s largest coking coal producer.

Mechel’s CEO Evgeny Mikhel said: “By gaining access to Port Vanino’s transhipment capacities, Mechel significantly expands its export capacities to Asia Pacific. Port Vanino is located only some 1,500 km away from the company’s Yakutia coal assets. Port Vanino’s operations will indisputably improve our ability to manage the logistics of our deliveries, expand the range of our exports due to greater storage capacity and minimize our dependency on transport markets.

“The fact that Port Vanino’s coal transhipment capacities may be increased as early as in 2013 to seven million tonnes a year at little expense and without any significant reconstruction of its facilities, gives us the chance of greatly reducing investment costs for construction of our own terminal at Vanino in the next 3-5 years.

“I would like to note separately that as a result of this transaction Mechel will ensure guaranteed sales volumes of the group’s coal products, including those produced at the Elga deposit.”

Last year, the port, which can handle vessels up to 45,000 deadweight tonnes in size, reported throughput of six million tonnes of cargo.