• 2022 April 28

    By IWW throughout the year

    Image source: Azov Don Shipping Company

    Upon the order of Rosmorrechflot, Admiral Makarov State University of Maritime and Inland Shipping has completed assessment of the infrastructure project on ensuring year-round navigation on the Caspian-Azov route scheduled for implementation by 2030. Navigation season on Volga-Don waterways is 244 days on the average while shipping companies confirm the demand for its extension. Cargo traffic can thus be increased to 9 million tonnes per year. 

    Based on expert estimates, investments into the project will make RUB 70.9 billion (in prices of QI’2022) including expenses for reconstruction and modernization of navigable hydraulic engineering facilities estimated at RUB 54.8 billion. Beneficiaries of the project on organization of year-round navigation on inland water ways of the Caspian-Azov direction are the business, the population, the state and the c constituent entities of RF as well as Caspian states and regions.

    Photo by IAA PortNews

    “The survey results show the interest of shipping companies and regions in implementation of the project on organization of year-round navigation on inland water ways of the Caspian-Azov direction and confirm the plans on transportation of cargoes traditional for shipping companies throughout the extended navigation season, – explained Tatyana Pantina, Prorector for Research and Innovations, Admiral Makarov SUMIS. – At the same time, increased competitiveness of the water route versus the railway ensured by year-round navigation and escape of seasonality allows for new cargo flows to come.”

    The project on organization of year-round navigation on inland water ways of the Caspian-Azov direction via the Volga-Don Canal ensures a positive social and economic (public) effect under all scenarios. That of basic scenario is estimated at about RUB 60 billion.  

    Cargo flow dynamics

    In 2019, cargo transportation in the Caspian-Azov direction via the Volga-Don Canal exceeded 5 million tonnes, according to the research (IAA PortNews has the review at its disposal). Dry bulk cargo accounts for over 90% of cargo flows towards the Caspian Sea. As for the Black Sea direction, it has been ranging between 43% and 70% over the recent five years. In 2020, transit transportation surged 2.6 times versus  2017. Major countries shipping cargoes in the Caspian Sea direction are Turkey, Romania and the South u countries, on the back route – Turkmenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Iran.

    Image source: www.asco.az
    Shipping companies are interested in the project while expecting new cargo flows due to the increased competitiveness of the water route versus the railway and the escape of seasonality, says the review.

    Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Company CJSC (ASCO) confirms the demand for cargo transportation on the Caspian-Azov-Caspian route via the Volga-Don Canal over the extended navigation period, according to the company’s letter. In 2021, ASCO carried over 60,000 tonnes of oil products and about 20,000 tonnes of dry cargo. ASCO's cargo mix mainly consists of oil products, carbamide and sulphur on the Caspian-Azov route. On the return route it mainly carries oil products and general cargo.

    Image source: www.volgaflot.com

    The project is beneficial for all shipping companies operating in the region, says Rustem Galeyev, Administrative Director of Volga Shipping Company JSC. According to him, safe operation of the fleet and hydraulic engineering facilities is to be ensured throughout the year for a successful implementation of the project.  “The capacity of hydraulic engineering facilities will be affected by the need to suspend operation of the locks in order to conduct repair and maintenance which used to be conducted in internavigation periods. Besides, there are concerns over sufficiency of water level round the year,” he says. 

    In the winter period, lower Volga does not need any additional discharge of water from the Volgograd reservoir in view of the plans for year-round navigation, Admiral Makarov SUMIS assures the business. Organization of year-round navigation does not interfere with the interests of other parties consuming water.

    However, long-term data on monthly water discharge from the lower pool of Tsimlyanskaya HPP in internaviogation period suggests that water resources needed for the extended navigation period are not sufficient. This problem is to be solved with the launching of the Bagayevsky hydrosystem on the Don river.

    The limit of water discharge from the Tsimlyansky reservoir for operation of the Volga-Don Canal is set at 128.9 million cbm which accounts for 0.65% of the total inflow into the reservoir. Additional discharge volumes needed to ensure year-round navigation on the Volga-Don Canal makes less than one third of this figure which is not to influence the water-resources output that much.

    Step-by-step towards year-round navigation

    Bagayevsky hydrosystem

    When speaking at the 5th International Congress “Hydraulic Engineering Structures and Dredging”,  Andrey Lavrishchev, Deputy Head, Azov-Don Basin Administration, said that he project is aimed at ensuring nine-month long navigation season on the route with its further extension to eleven months. For that purpose it is planned to conduct reconstruction of 19 hydraulic engineering facilities, and reconstruction of dams of the Kochetovsky and Nikolaevsky hydrosystems.

    Besides, sufficient technical fleet is needed. According to Tatyana Pantina, construction of at least four new icebreakers is needed to ensure simultaneous assistance of ships operating in both directions along the waterway. They will ether support ice-free canal during mild winters or escort convoys of ships every second day. The ships intended for providing icebreaker assistance are to be fitted with special equipment for monitoring of the navigable pass and lifting equipment for servicing of aids to navigation. Besides, they are to operate as multifunctional rescue tugs.

    According to experts asked by IAA PortNews, the trend towards containerization of cargoes will ensure additional volumes on the route with containers. There are ships available for that, say the Agency’s sources. For example, Russian river/sea going ships of RSD59 design can accommodate 248 containers, Volga-Don Max ships – 400 containers. “With the change of logistic chains amid sanctions and redirection of cargo flows from the North-West to the South and the Far East of Russia, year-round navigation on the Volga-Don Canal takes on new significance,” the experts told IAA PortNews.

    Photo by IAA PortNews

    Aleksey Bezborodov, CEO of the analytical agency Infranews, believes that transportation of containers on the route will to a great extent depend on organization of logistic services. He reminds about numerous stevedores and operators acting in the South of Russia including Makhachkala, Derbent, Astrakhan and Olya whose shipments are not regular. “So far, container routes connecting the Azov Sea and the Caspian Sea are more consistent in the segment of road transport: automobile transportation of cargo from Rostov-on-Don to Astrakhan and Volgograd is faster,” he says adding that dry cargo carries can be used for container transportation since there are no specially equipped river-going container ships. 

    Experts consider the new project on year-round shipping between the Caspian and the Azov seas to offer new logistics for cargo flows, facilitate the development of the regions along the waterway and give an impetus to shipbuilding with orders for new river-class icebreakers and long-discussed container ships.

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Nadegda Malysheva