• 2013 January 24

    Fantasy-free shipbuilding

    Russia completely gives up on her dream to compete with South Korea, China and Japan in construction of large capacity vessels. Instead, it was decided to focus on arctic vessels, platforms and naval shipbuilding. The consolidation of shipyards within the United Shipbuilding Corporation provides for more sound specialization of the plants.

    The construction of large-capacity ‘general use’ vessels is not Russia’s scene. That is the opinion which Denis Manturov, RF Minister of Trade and Industry, expressed when commenting on the state program for shipbuilding development through 2030 (developed by the Ministry and approved by RF Government in late 2012). According to him, it is better to focus on construction of hi-tech vessels, offshore platforms, naval ships and low capacity vessels instead. 

    This message seems to be a reasonable one – a number of factors like compact infrastructure, its availability, climate, cost of materials and labor enable Asian countries to provide customers with more competitive proposals with relatively low added value. However, the construction of ice-reinforced vessels, arctic marine facilities and war ships is a traditionally soviet and Russian niche with an extensive experience and designing facilities.

    In this regard it should be noted that the United Shipbuilding Corporation (OSK OJSC) has so far consolidated under its authority Russia’s large shipyards, which is to ensure a unified strategy for the industry development.

    Nordic way

    As for the large capacity arctic vessels, their construction is to be eventually carried out mainly by the two new shipbuilding complexes in St. Petersburg and in Bolshoi Kamen (Primorsk region). 

    In St. Petersburg this shipyard is to be built on Kotlin island (Kronshtadt). The joint project of USC and S. Korean STX tied to the transfer of the Admiralty Shipyards facilities from St. Petersburg center, was covered earlier >>>>.  However, the fate of this project is quite clouded so far.

    Meanwhile, the construction of a complex for building large capacity vessels based on Zvezda shipyard is already in process in Primorsk region. We also covered it earlier >>>>

    The icebreaking fleet will be built at the Baltic Shipyard which has already secured orders for construction of a 60-MW nuclear icebreaker and diesel-electric one. The shipyard’s facilities are currently being reconstructed specially for building powerful nuclear icebreakers (up to 100MW). In January 2013, a tender was announced for construction of two more 60-MW nuclear icebreakers which are to become the most powerful ones in the world history).

    Less powerful icebreakers can be also built by Vyborg Shipyard, also in cooperation with Arctech Helsinki Shipyard Oy (JV of USC and S. Korean STX Finland). Vyborg Shipyard is already busy with the construction of three 16-MW 21900М icebreakers. Two of them will be delivered on a turn-key basis in Russia with the third one – in cooperation with the Finnish shipyard. 

    Besides, Arctech Helsinki Shipyard Oy and Vyborg Shipyard are able to build arctic supply vessels like Vitus Bering, lead ship of the series of multipurpose icebreaking platform supply vessels ordered by Sovcomflot Group. Some 90% of the structures was done by Vyborg Shipyard with final fitting of the vessels for contract operation to be carried implemented in St. Petersburg.

    Vyborg Shipyard also used to build drilling platforms with modules. Off-shore platforms will be eventually built in Primorsk region within the framework of the above mentioned complex for construction of large capacity vessels.

    Long talks about big ships

    There are not a few enterprises specializing in naval shipbuilding in Russia. First of all it is Sevmash which has recently commissioned the lead strategic missile carrying submarine cruiser Yuri Dolgoruky, project 955 Borei class, Admiralty Shipyards (submarines), Zvezda (submarines), Baltic Shipyard Yantar (mid-capacity ships) etc. Of course, the above enterprises can build not only war ships but civil vessels as well. For example, Baltic Shipyard Yantar is building an asymmetric icebreaker to fight with oil spills. It also built a research vessel Seliger etc. 

    While on the subject of naval shipbuilding, it should be reminded that Roman Trotsenko, former USC President, announced the Corporation’s readiness to build a nuclear aircraft carrier. Former Defense Minister Anatoli Serdyukov in his turn announced that the Ministry expected to be provided with a preliminary project of nuclear aircraft carrier by 2013. It is true, that both Trotsenko and Serdyukov have resigned so this discussion seems to be put on hold so far. In general, In general, as it was earlier stated by Dmitri Rogozin, Vice-Chairman of RF Government, by 2013 the production capacity of Russia’s military-industrial complex should be raised to the level when it can annually build 6 submarines and one aircraft carrier. It is difficult to say if this goal is reached. But taking into consideration the epic modernization of aircraft carrier Vikramaditya by Sevmash, the ability of Russia to build one aircraft carrier per year seems to be quite doubtful.

    Besides, there is a plan to build a ship repair and shipbuilding cluster for the needs of RF Navy in the Southern Federal District, Dmitri Rogozin has recently said. These plans are related to the project on relocation of the Black Sea Fleet from Ukraine to Russia scheduled, as it was earlier announced, for 2020.

    Getting to the filling

    Speaking generally about the hi-tech shipbuilding, the ‘filling’ of vessels and ships or so called marionics should be not least of all. It is a common belief that Russia hopelessly lags behind in this sphere having to use all but exclusively foreign developments and equipment. 

    Meanwhile, it should be acknowledged that the recent years saw considerable achievements in this area. For example, in the eyes of Stanislav Vartanyan, Corporate Communications Director of Tranzas Group, Russian companies are quite able to produce shipboard equipment meeting international standards. 

    “It would be a mistake to think that Russian shipbuilding produces only hulls and purchases all components in foreign countries. Our national companies can and do produce and supply shipboard equipment including naval electronics. Navigation systems produced by Tranzas as well as sensors and cargo systems of Valcom defying competition in both Russian and international market can serve an example. It should be acknowledged that the share of foreign components is still quite high which is a global feature of commercial shipbuilding but with the expansion in the number of vessels being built by domestic shipyards the share of Russian components is growing getting ahead of linear dependency”, Stanislav Vartanyan comments. 

    In this respect we will note that Tranzas Goup has developed and supplied an up-to-date radio- and navigation equipment for the above-mentioned supply vessel Vitus Bering providing for efficient and safe solutions of sea navigation and supply of off-shore oil platforms in challenging ice conditions. In some cases the solutions applied by St. Petersburg company have no equals.

    Cannot do without support

    Nevertheless, the shipbuilding industry requires a state support and obtains it in all shipbuilding countries.

    The development of domestic shipbuilding, especially in the rapidly developing segment of river and sea-river shipbuilding (which should be described separately) is facilitated by the law on measures supporting Russian shipbuilding and navigation (passed in 2011). This law fixes and economic regime for ship owners registered their vessels in the Russian International Register of Vessels. It is comparable with the regimes of the most attractive flags. The most benefits under the law are available for vessels built by Russian shipyards and registered under Russian flag. Ship owners have already reacted to the new law and since November 2011 tens of vessels, mainly newbuildings or relatively new ones, were registered with the Russian International Register of Vessels.

    Moreover, there is a possibility to create industrial production special economic zones. For example, this kind of zone is to be established in Astrakhan region in the first quarter of 2013. It is to include the leading shipbuilding enterprises of the region. The residents of this zone will be provided with tax, customs and other benefits contributing to the development of shipbuilding, machine engineering and hi-tech sector. It may happen that such zones will appear in other regions as well.

    Generally speaking, there are still many problems hindering the development of the national shipbuilding. They include low efficiency of labour and lack of skilled personnel, lack of access to ‘long’ financing, faulty business of some market players (recalling the situation with the construction of twin-hull vessels for APEC summit in the Far East). To solve these problems without state participation does not seem possible either.

    Vitali Chernov