BELFREIGHT expanding horizons
In recent years, Russia has been active in the Arctic. Belfracht is one of the shipping companies that has been operating in the region for a long time. The Belfreight press office told IAA PortNews about the shipping company’s activity, development plans, outlook for shipping along the Northern Sea Route and the problem of illegal ship breaking at yards in the Arkhangelsk region.
- What is the current composition of the shipping company’s fleet, is there a shipbuilding program or any programme to upgrade your fleet?
- As of now, the company's fleet consists of seven vessels, including two river-sea mixed class vessels, three tugboats, and two research vessels. We are constantly working on upgrading our fleet to improve its performance and commercial parameters.
For example, one of the latest projects was the refitting of the Pur-Navolok ship carried out in 2017 at the Pomorskaya Ship Repair Yard. It included the installation of the construction of a deck hydraulic marine crane NMF PKL 24019-40012 with a lifting capacity of 40 tonnes. The project included improvement of the vessel capabilities particularly loading and unloading cargo onto shore equipped with a pier or non-equipped, and transfer of cargo onto smaller boats.
This year the overhaul and modernization of a RV of STR-420 series, Nadezhny class are nearing completion at Slavansky Ship Repair Yard based in Primorsky Krai.
- What projects is your fleet engaged in?
The region where our dry cargo vessels operate is the Kara, Barents, White, Baltic, Caspian, Black, and Mediterranean seas, Central Russia’s inland waterways, the Ob and Yenisei rivers.
Our tugs and research vessels specialize in work on the shelf of the Arctic seas of the Russian Federation and participate in oil, gas and research projects of large state enterprises.
In addition, our company performs transportation and towing of project an oversize cargo from Europe. We have completed the transportation of a general cargo from Taganrog through inland waterways to the port of Dudinka. Also an oversize cargo is being transported from the Port of Tallinn to the Port of Krasnoyarsk. We also provide transportation of bulk cargo and goods for national economy to ports and port localities in the western sector of the Russian Arctic.
- What are the company's development plans for the next few years?
- The company plans to increase the seaborne, project cargo transportation, to continue upgrade of special purpose fleet to achieve the vessels maximum attractiveness for customer projects. We continue to charter special offshore containers for the needs of oil and gas industry but also increase the number and range of our own containers fleet. Our company will establish an offshore container service base in Murmansk, and continue redevelopment of shore bases and subsidiaries enterprises.
- Many plans have been announced recently on arranging a regular shipping line along the Northern Sea Route. How do you assess this possibility?
Most likely, this is a matter of the future. To have regular service there it will require a steady flow of goods in both directions, developed onshore and port infrastructure along the route, availability of modern icebreakers, and the financial and investment components of the project. This is not about a regular shipping line as yet.
In the near future, bulk cargoes of Russian state enterprises (LNG, liquid bulk, dry bulk (grab/suction) cargoes and construction materials will constitute the lion’s share of freight flow along the NSR. The implementation of national projects for the development of the Arctic, contributes to the development of shipping through the NSR.
It is worth noting here that at the end of 2016, the volume of traffic via Suez Canal reached 974 million tonnes. The current volume of transit through the NSR (200,000 tonnes) does not yet account for even 1% compared with the Egyptian shipping route. To create a competitive route along the NSR, much remains to be done …
- Every now and again the media covers the problem of illegal ship demolition in the Arkhangelsk region. Do you see this problem and how do you think it needs to be addressed?
- Yes, this problem is urgent both for Arkhangelsk and for the whole of Russia. In particular, in Arkhangelsk, ships are broken down right on the shore in water protection zones! Metal chips, petroleum products, kilograms of rust are dumped into the water, the interior decoration of ships is burned out.
In addition to environmental damage this ship breaking practice hits the region’s economy as a large amount of taxes from this type of activity does not go to budgets of various levels. Miserable sanctions do not affect the multimillion-dollar business in any way, so criminal entrepreneurs continue their “black business”, and I believe, the regional government and regulators do not take effective measures. This activity has been carried out for ten years and is gaining industrial scale.
Given the scale of the region and the number of ships, one can only guess what is the turnover in this market. Its growth is promoted by large customers, fleet owners who are trying to save on ship disposal. They provide smooth traffic of old ships to gas cutters of illegal demolishing yards. Unfortunately, those are well-known companies in Russia.
The scale of Arkhangelsk ship breaking business: between 2015 through 2017, more than a dozen vessels were demolished in the region: tugboats, trawlers, floating docks, etc. All of these vessels were demolished on the beach, right in a water protection zone.
In our opinion, this type of activity needs to be licensed, thereby admitting to this business only legal entities that have all the necessary facilities and equipment for disposal of ships in compliance with labor protection and environmental safety rules. For example, in the former Soviet Union, in Arkhangelsk, a ship breaking yard was built specifically for this purpose as a regional center for disposal of old ships.
Answers were provided by Marketing Department, Belfreight.