• 2020 April 15

    Modern cargo fleet in Caspian regions and its prospects

    The Strategy for the development of Russian seaports in the Caspian Basin as well as road and railway approaches to them till 2030 (RF Government Decree dated 8 November 2017 No2469-р) can be cited - the dynamics of cargo turnover in the ports of the region depends on economic processes in other Caspian countries, including Iran, as well as Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. In addition, prospects for growth of cargo turnover are associated with the development of trading partnership with India and Gulf countries.

    That is why cargo base and its forecasts are crucially important for understanding directions of development of commercial fleet. At the same time not only transportations oriented exclusively to Iran ports should be considered, but also transportations to Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan ports. In addition, there is freight traffic of crude oil from North Caspian Lukoil’s drilling platforms which also requires feeder tankers. Transit cargo for Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan should also be counted (for example, see abstracts of Termez conference report http://www.meb.com.ua/news/news.html?1560).

    Types of cargoes are understandable - grain, metal, crude oil, oil products, as well as standardized cargo units – ISO containers, wagons, trucks.
    Hence required types of vessels - multipurpose dry-cargo and container vessels, railway and car ferries, tankers.

    Vessels’ dimensions are either of transit ("Volga-Don" max, "Volga-Balt" max) or Caspian type ("Caspian" max, dimensions will not allow to work through Volga-Don Ship Canal, only in the Caspian region).

    As for today such vessels already exist: in operation or under construction.


    Totally 19 seagoing ferries of 5 projects are under operation in the Caspian Sea. 13 ferries of them are of railway cargo-passenger type of 3 projects (11611-A, 10802E, 0379). The remaining 4 ferries of 161 project and 2 new ferries of 11612-B project are seagoing car-passenger (cargo-passenger) ferries for passenger and Ro-Ro vehicles transportation.

    Mean age of these ferries operated on the Caspian Sea lines (19 units) is 24.6 years, but many of them are older than 30 years.

    The main transported cargoes are flat-car containers, crude oil and oil products, food and agricultural products, building materials, and also trucks.
    On December 13, 2019 Baku Shipyard solemnly launched new lead railway-car-passenger ferry "Azerbaijan" for the Caspian Sea of CNF18C project for "Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Company". The second one is under construction.

    New "open type" CNF18C ferry is assigned for transportation of 100 passengers, 56 railway wagons with 1520 mm track breadth and motor trucks (50 car trains), including ones with dangerous goods. Ferryboat's construction foresees aft cargo handling scheme and is equipped with side ramp for loading/unloading vehicles from/to usual berth.


    "Lacin" of RST12C project In December, 2019 Baku Shipyard put into operation lead 8009 DWT Caspian river-sea oil product chemical tanker of new generation "Lacin" of RST12C project for "Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Company". Three more tankers are under construction.

    RST12C new tankers have boosted "Caspian" function:

    •    8009 t deadweight at Caspian draught of 4.54 m (RST27 tanker has 7022 t deadweight), increased on 979 t;
    •    capacity of cargo tanks is foreseen for oil and oil products at Caspian Region; capacity is increased by trunk raising up to 9190 m³ (RST27 has 8100 m³), i.e. there is 1090 m³ increase.

    Russian Shipyards (Krasnoe Sormovo) successfully build tankers – analogues of RST27M project of "Balt Flot" type.
    For example, on December 27, 2019, "Volga-Don" max class RST27 oil/chemical tanker "Balt-Flot 15" of 7030/5428 t sea / river deadweight unloaded at Makhachkala Trading Port the first shipment of diesel oil from Turkmenistan.

    Multipurpose dry-cargo vessels with container function

    RSD49RSD49. On June 8, 2017 Nevsky Shipyard delivered to Kazakhstan customer the ninth 7150 DWT 289 TEU multipurpose dry-cargo vessel "Atameken" of RSD49 project. The vessel was delivered in Aktau port in the Caspian Sea. "KTZ Express Shipping" received from Nevsky Shipyard two multipurpose dry-cargo vessels of RSD49 project "Zhibek Zholy" and "Atameken".

    005RSD03. On April 16, 2019 225 TEU multipurpose dry-cargo vessel of 005RSD03 project "Turkestan" opened container line from Aktau to Baku port.

    One such vessel provides cargo loading of two full-length container trains at feeder services.

    Feeder vessels of 005RSD03 project make regular voyages on weekly basis, which contributes to increase in cargo traffic along the Trans-Caspian international transport route and further development of containerization of cargo in the Caspian region. The Trans-Caspian route is a key link in the Eurasian transport arteries and complements the system of transit corridors in Kazakhstan.

    "We accepted this 102 m length vessel, which can carry 225 TEU. Total cargo capacity of the vessel is 5000 tons. This is multipurpose vessel which can transport both bulk cargoes and containers. There was a problem in the Caspian Sea - the lack of such container transportation line. Containers from China with destination to Europe now go across the ocean for about 30 days, with new line across the Caspian Sea the time will be reduced by half - up to 14 days, that is very important for those cargoes that have very short storage time. New line will connect not only two ports - Aktau and Baku, but also Asia and Europe. All these factors contribute to increase in transit traffic through Kazakhstan. I think our native manufacturers will use this line", said Aydar Orzhanov, Deputy General Director for Commerce of LLP NMSC "Kazmortransflot".

    Onega Shipyard is a builder of 005RSD03 project.

    Two vessels of this project are operated by "KTZ Express" under the flag of Kazakhstan, eight vessels in "Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Company", two vessels – by Albros shipping company.

    For example, by the end of 2019 such vessel of 005RSD03 project "Gafur Mamedov" (owned by "Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Company") shipped 2856 tons of carbamide (urea) in bulk to Moldova from Turkmenbashi by transit voyage through Volga-Don Shipping Canal.
    Existing infrastructure of Caspian ports does not allow the use of "classic" container vessels with large container capacity - they simply will be loaded and unloaded for a long time.

    Multipurpose dry-cargo vessels.

    RSD59In April 2020 "Krasnoe Sormovo" Shipyard finished sea trials of the fifteenth built on this Shipyard 8144 DWT multipurpose dry-cargo vessel "Pola Yaroslava" of RSD59 project.

    "Krasnoe Sormovo" Shipyard has already built twelve multipurpose dry-cargo vessels of RSD59 project, eight more are under construction, plus there is signed agreement for building 20 more vessels. Nevsky Shipyard built two vessels of RSD59 project, the third one is launched and two more are under construction. Oka Shipyard signed contracts for building 15 vessels of RSD59 project. Keels of six vessels are laid down; the lead vessel has been launched on March 3, 2020.

    So as for today total order is 60 dry-cargo vessels of RSD59 project (fourteen were built, twenty-six are under construction on different building stages, twenty are in option).

    Vessels of the series can be operated for transportations of general, bulk, container, timber, grain and large-sized cargoes, dangerous goods of 1.4S, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.1, 8, 9 classes of IMDG Code and cargoes of category B of IMSBC Code. Sailing regions are Mediterranean, Caspian, Black, Baltic, White, North Seas, including voyages around Europe and to Irish Sea in winter. The new dry-cargo project RSD59, which is constructed in "super-full" ship lines with two dry-cargo holds, one of which has a record length for "Volga-Don max" class vessels, is the successor of the three-hold RSD49 series.
    Advantages of RSD59 project in comparison with the best of the previously constructed dry-cargo vessels of "Volga-Don max" class of RSD49 project (by the example of m/v "Pola Fiva" with increased sea function):

    • existence of a long L = 77.35 m hold (RSD49 vessel has L = 52 m cargo hold) that allows transportation of oversized and heavy cargo; this is relevant for the market of the Caspian region countries;
    • hold's height is increased up to 9000 mm, that is 620 mm bigger than for RSD49 project. Such height allows to load 9'6'' containers ("high cube containers"), 3 ones in single stack;
    • deadweight at draught of 3.60 m is 5320 t (RSD49 has 4507 t), increase is 813 t;
    • deadweight at a draught of 4.20 m 6944 tons (RSD49 project has 6021 t), increased by 923 t;
    • deadweight at the maximum draught of 4.706 m is 8144 t (RSD49 has 7143 t at maximum draught of 4.70 m ), increase is 1000 t.


    It is necessary clearly to figure out real cargo base, actual way conditions and technological capabilities of Caspian ports and get serially built vessels on shipyards for this cargo base. Taking into account well-known Caspian market volatility, it is better to have cargo fleet that can be used in other areas (Black Sea, Baltic, Mediterranean Sea).

    60 000 DWT tankers, car ferries for 100 trucks and container vessels for 600 containers, which have been discussed for a long time with some breaks, do not fit into the cargo base of the region. Actually, that is why these vessels are not building.

    Alexander Egorov, Marine Engineering Bureau, chief researcher, PhD