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2014 February 4

Russia and Crimea build bridges

проект моста через Керченский проливAmid dissolution of Ukraine, Russia has “recalled” the project on construction of a bridge over the Kerch Strait which was conceived as far back as at the time of … the Third Reich. The project is valued at $3 bln.

istory repeats itself?

The construction of the bridge over the Kerch Strait was once started by the Germans during the Second World War. After the war the construction was completed by Soviet builders but it has not survived the ice drift. Present-day Russia returned to the idea in 2010 when Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich addressed the President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev with a suggestion to execute the project by the Olympic Games Sochi-2014. The Russian side appreciated the suggestion. However the Olympics is about to begin while the things are still right where they started. The project was apparently “frozen” because of its value hitting up to $4 bln – neither Ukraine, nor Russia (which has already spent a lot) had “money to spare” on that scale.

Nevertheless, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Igor Shuvalov has recently instructed related authorities to commence the development of the project on building the bridge over the Kerch Strait. The Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs shall coordinate with the Ukrainian side the technical design specifications for an engineering survey and a feasibility study. Avtodor public company or one of its subsidiaries is supposed to be chosen as the ordering customer of the above works. 

The Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs shall submit proposals on the timeframes for the construction of a transport bridge across the Kerch Strait with regard to design alternatives. Besides, The Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Economic Development and the Ministry of Transport shall study the issue and submit proposals on a special tax regime for the construction and use of the transport bridge across the Kerch Strait.

Проект моста через Керченский проливIt should be noted that Russia is not in the best financial situation today. In this context, renewed interest to the project can be explained by a geopolitical situation related to the threat of dissolution of Ukraine. Sevastopol is still the base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet though the preparations are in progress for its location in Novorossiysk. The bridge would strengthen the positions of Moscow at the peninsula and in Ukraine as a whole.

According to the Council of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea several variants of the passage are being considered today. The first – only for the motor transport, the second – the speedway will be supplied with the railway, the third – also envisages a gas pipeline. The fourth variant includes the abovementioned plus the high voltage grid.

The final decision is to be taken upon completion of the feasibility study which is to take about half a year. Then designing is to begin. Experts say the construction is to last 4-5 years. The project is valued at $1.5-3 bln. The pay-back period - 5-10 years. A joint Ukraine-Russia enterprise is to be established to arrange the financial on a parity basis.

According to the pre-design earlier developed by Spetsfundamentstroi LLC there should be a 15-meter wide highway and a railway.  The pre-design also says the Kerch Strait will be crossed by 10 mln persons per year. Besides, it will be used for transportation of liquefied gas by road and railway tankers. The bridge will reduce the way from Ukraine to the Krasnodar Territory by about 450 km. It will be 4.5 km long. The company also said that the construction could take 2 years in case of the political will and financing. However, the pre-design was developed in line with the idea to build the bridge by the Olympics-2014 in Sochi so it is far from certain that it will be used today.

Nevertheless, the bridge is not likely to facilitate navigation in the Strait. Additional structures in the sea only hamper navigation. The bridge is to be high enough for large vessels and drilling platforms to pass under. Besides, the project is to affect the activities of port Kavkaz with its auto/passenger ferry complex Kuban-Crimea and rail ferry complex Anroskrym.

We’d like to remind that similar project was implemented by the APEC Summit – the bridge to Russkiy island was built. Besides, the construction of bridges to Sakhalin and Alaska is under discussion from time to time.

Vitaly Chernov