• 2015 October 6

    Petersburg: berth story

    Water tour along the rivers and canals is a well known brand of Saint-Petersburg. Every summer citizens and guests of Saint-Petersburg are invited to unique water routs. Meanwhile, market players say the development of water tourism in the city is hindered by the lack of public berths.

    Over 250 vessels operated by 66 shipping companies sail along the rivers and canals of Saint-Petersburg. Over 110 sightseeing and leisure routes are available in the city. From 1 to 1.4 mln people are annually serviced by tourist companies, says Rimma Sachunova, Deputy Chairman of Saint-Petersburg’s Tourism Committee.

    Passenger traffic depends on the climate factor as the number of those willing to have a water tour is much higher in warm season. Saint-Petersburg suggests five regular non-subsidized hop-on/ hop-off routes providing a passenger with an opportunity to board/leave a ship any number of times any over a two-day period with a single ticket.

    According to Rimma Sachunova, the most popular route - City Sightseeing. Canal Cruise – covers the center of Saint-Petersburg and stops at the city’s key sights. It provides an audio-guide in different languages.

    Public berths

    Meanwhile, considerable growth of passenger traffic at the water transport of Saint-Petersburg is not possible due to insufficient number of public berths available for all vessels willing to perform boarding/disembarking operations costing just RUB 320. Privately owned vessels are also allowed to moor at such berths.

    In 2015, Saint-Petersburg suggests eight public berths up from four berths in 2014. Their number is supposed to be increased to twelve berths in 2016, says Vladimir Rodionov, Deputy Director of Saint-Petersburg State Institution “External Transport Agency”.

    To increase the number of berths, the Agency, in cooperation with the Tourism Committee of Saint-Petersburg and other stakeholders, have elaborated a concept for the development of water transport in Saint-Petersburg up to 2020. The document provides for a significant increase in the number of city berths, expansion of the sightseeing and leisure routs including Kronshtadt, Lomonosov and Oreshek Fortress, as well as creation of convenient stopping points like those in the European countries. The document submitted to Saint-Petersburg Administration has not been approved yet.

    “We would welcome more regular routes covering all landmarks of Saint-Petersburg. Of course, city sights should be linked with the remote sights of Peterhoff, Oranienbaum and Kronshtadt. In this context we are going to have the concept of water transport development finally approved,” Vladimir Rodionov said.

    Business backs the idea

    The idea has been backed by the business. The concept approval will certainly become a breakthrough in the development of water routes and promotion of new solutions in the market, says Andrei Kuznetsov, Director General of Astra Marine Group.

    “We can build new ships, suggest new routes but everything is hindered by the lack of public berths. It is the problem that holds up the development of water routes in Saint-Petersburg. Private holders of berths are afraid of competition and do not let them be publicly available. It is a wrong position as competition gives an impetus to the development,” Andrei Kuznetsov said. According to him, creation of sufficient number of public berths does not require enormous investments. There are enough pontoons and only infrastructure is to be developed.

    Feeling optimistic about the future

    However, the head of Astra Marine feels optimistic about the future. The company is set to expand hop-on/ hop-off routes to deliver passengers to Peterhoff. A travel package including the visits to museums is under elaboration within the framework of this concept. Besides, there is a project allowing tourists buy tickets onboard the ship so that they could save their time. Andrei Kuznetsov says the company will carry some 450,000 passengers over the navigation period of 2015, which exceeds the result of the previous year.

    It should be noted that recent seven years have seen the decrease of passenger traffic at inland water ways of Russia. However, the number of passengers carried in Saint-Petersburg is stable over the same period featuring a slight growth due to internal tourist routes. The development of public berths network will certainly facilitate the development of passenger traffic at inland water transport and improve the quality of services in the sector.

    Margarita Babkova