Research vessels being prepared for cruises
The Ministry of Natural Resources plans to complete the conversion of two research vessels into cruise ships by the end of 2024. Possible contractor - Slavyansky Ship Repair Plant. Experts estimate the project at RUB 0.5 billion.
The first cruise on board R/V Professor Khromov is planned for June 2023. When two research vessels of Roshydromet are converted, they will be chartered for operation on specially developed cruise routes in ten protected territories of the Far East. The second ship is R/V Akademik Shokalsky. A possibility of cruises in foreign water areas is under consideration for winter seasons, as press center of the Ministry told IAA PortNews.
According to the Ministry of Natural Resources, major works on repair, modernization and equipment of the ships will be performed by Primorsky Territory based Slavyansky Ship Repair Plant. However, the Ministry does not name the project according to which the ships will be reequipped but says “it will be conducted according to overhaul specifications”. The scope of financing is also based on overhaul specifications and it is to be covered by the federal budget but the scope has not been revealed either.
Experts asked by IAA PortNews say that both ships are registered in the port of Vladivostok. Therefore, it is reasonable to conduct repair works and certification of the ships in the region. Slavyansky Ship Repair Plant has three floating docks with the capacity ranging between 8,500 and 35,600 tonnes.
R/V Professor Khromov and R/V Akademik Shokalsky of Project 637 were built by Laivateollisuus Ab in Turku in 1982 and 1983 respectively under the order of the USSR Academy of Science (Hydrometeorological Committee).
The works on R/V Professor Khromov are to be completed in the first quarter of 2023. The modernization of R/V Akademik Shokalsky is planned for 2024. “Scheduled repairs will be performed on the ships in accordance with the requirements of the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping (RS) as part of the class survey of ships: dock repair (hull, propeller-rudder complex), repair of the main and auxiliary engines, pipeline works, repair of the electro-mechanical part and automation, auxiliary mechanisms,” said the Ministry adding that the complete structural modernization is not needed with “all works determined by the overhaul specifications”.
When converted, “each ship will be able to ensure comfortable accommodation of 45 people apart from the crew and personnel. Maximum capacity - 56 people. Rescue boats and rafts meet SOLAS requirements for 80 people (maximum capacity of the ship including the crew). For comfortable accommodation, there are deluxe cabins, junior suites, single and double cabins (a total of 30 passenger cabins of various classes), a wardroom, a conference room, a relaxation room, a bar and a sauna. The vessel is equipped with a laundry room and showers".
As IAA PortNews learnt from Nordic Engineering experienced in modernization research vessels, R/V Professor Khromov is a small expedition ship of ice class. In 2013 and in 2019, the ship underwent reequipment for accommodation of 50 passengers in cabins of various classes. R/V Akademik Shokalsky underwent modernization in 1998 for accommodation of 48 passengers. Both ships are of passenger class now. Before the recent conversion the ships were deployed for expedition voyages.
According to the Ministry, “the first voyage of R/V Professor Khromov is scheduled for June 2023” with Vasta discovery to operate the cruises. “Ships are to be chartered for a long-term period – the framework agreement covers 5 years,” says the Ministry.
The following is known about the routes: “The routes developed and approved for 2023 foresee the visit of ten specially protected areas: Sikhote-Alin Nature Reserve, Land of the Leopard National Park, Far Eastern Marine Reserve, Kedrovaya Pad Reserve, Ussuri Reserve, Kuril Reserve, Berengia National Park, Wrangel Island Reserve, Kronotsky Reserve, Small Kuriles Reserve". According to the Ministry of Natural Reserves, the development of a cruise route is a comprehensive work involving the Ministry, the authorities of certain reserves and parks and cruise operators.
“The development of design documentation is not needed for the above-mentioned repair works,” explained Nordic Engineering. It can be required for modernization works.
Nordic Engineering estimates the works on reequipment of one research vessel (expert estimation) at RUB 100 – 250 million depending on the equipment wear.
When speaking of the navigation conditions, the Ministry experts emphasize that “the routes are developed with respect of various factors including economic and climatic ones, an opportunity for tourists to visit several sites, availability of infrastructure. Weather risks are also taken into consideration: frequent storms at certain sites can prevent ships from calling. The routes to Ussuri and Kedrovaya Pad reserves foresee disembarking of passengers at the Far Eastern Marine Reserve since the former sites have no their own access to the sea”.
In the coming two years, the Ministry of Nature plans to carry about 1,200 passengers per summer season and to organize routes in southern areas. “Basing on the results of 2023 summer season, the number of cruises is to be increased in 2024 with the deployement of the second ship, R/V Akademik Shokalsky,” says the Ministry. “With the capacity of each vessel (up to 50 passengers, with a certain configuration of cabins), it is planned to increase the load to 600 people per vessel for the summer season, and also to consider the issue of year-round navigation with access to southern latitudes and cruises in the territorial waters of friendly states,” say the Ministry experts.
As for the cost of cruises, the Ministry expects it to depend on routes and category of cabins. “This issue is being elaborated,” said the Ministry.
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