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2016 October 19

To reach to a gem

Baltic Sea cruises are among the most expensive ones. Saint-Petersburg is set to intensify its struggle for a slice of the ‘cruise cake’. However, a number of infrastructure and legislation challenges should be met to this end.

A place in the Baltic sun

Saint-Petersburg, which deserves the ‘Gem of the Baltic’ title, undoubtedly has the largest cultural and historic potential among the Baltic cities. Yet, we think its share in cruise tourism is in disproportion to its significance. To intensify the calls of cruise ships to the city on the Neva a lot should be done for improvement of the related infrastructure and simplification of visa procedures.

As of today, tourists and passengers arriving on board the sea going ships are serviced at the Passenger Port of Saint-Petersburg «Marine Façade», at the Passenger Terminal and a the Angliyskaya and Lieutenant Shmidt embankments. Most passengers come to Marine Façade. In navigation season of 2016 Marine Façade welcomed 209 cruise liners with 456,500 passengers, down 5%, year-on-year. The embankments of Saint-Petersburg accepted 60 cruise ships with 26,000 passengers. In the 9-month period the Passenger Terminal registered 169 calls and serviced 287,600 passengers.

The decline of passenger flow at Marine Façade is attributed to the cycles of cruise demand in the region. Meanwhile, the confirmed applications for navigation season of 2017 let expect 543,000 passengers (+19%), a record high result in the history of the terminal. The number of calls is to be 2% less against the peak of 2013 and to reach 250 calls. The growth of passenger traffic amid a moderate decline in the number of calls is explained with the trend of using larger cruise ships. Therefore, Marine Façade is set to expand its infrastructure for handling liners of up to 330 meters in length. For that purpose, it is going to build anchoring piles at Berth No 7 for extension of the berth so that two 330-meeter long vessels could be accommodated simultaneously at berths No 6 and No 7. The design is to be completed in 2016, the first phase (pre-dredging) will be implemented in 2017. Then, in 2018, dredging at the berths is to be executed by FSUE Rosmorport. 

Besides, Passenger Port of Saint-Petersburg «Marine Façade» PLC is set to develop infrastructure for handling of cargoes delivered by ferries by 2018. According to Andrei Mushkarev, Chairman of Saint-Petersburg Committee for Tourism Development, one ferry can deliver up to 50 trucks of Euro-5 class. Handling of ferries will ensure round-the-year operation of the port and let it improve its financial performance, emphasized the official, As Aleksandra Bakhmutskaya, Director of Saint-Petersburg Agency for Long-distance Transport Facilities, said in her turn, arranging of ferry cargoes handling at «Marine Façade» will allow for reconstruction of the Passenger Terminal which is servicing ferries today. The Passenger Terminal is owned by the city and is used under the long-term leasing agreement. In 2016, RUB 10 mln was invested into reconstruction of the Terminal’s checkpoint.

Reconstruction is also required at landing stages of the Angliyskaya and Lieutenant Shmidt embankments. This reconstruction is to be carried out by Rosmorport in 2018. 

Though Western High-Speed Diameter will let partially unload the Vasilyevsky island and transport cargoes delivered by ferries to Marine Façade, accessibility of the island for transport still leaves much to be desired. It has a direct impact on the comfort of tourists arriving to Marine Façade, Passenger Terminal and Lieutenant Shmidt embankment. It should be reminded that the city was earlier planning a construction of a New-Admiralty Bridge to link the Vasilyevsky island with the mainland and to arrange river routes across the city. However, those plans did not go any further.

Besides limited infrastructure there are legislative challenges related to visa procedures. The city is interested in making Saint-Petersburg a port of transfer and a start/end point of tours. A conjunction of air and sea transport is required for that purpose. Andrei Mushkarev says the most realistic way to simplify visa procedures today is introduce e-visas.

Nevertheless, the city is full of optimism. Marine Façade has signed over a hundred of agreements with tour operators this year. Among them there are 18 new companies. In 2016, 8,936 passengers started and ended their cruise in Saint-Petersburg.

Meanwhile, if Saint-Petersburg is really planning to become a tourist stronghold in the region, the projects on construction of new bridges, development of municipal river transport, shifting of industries out of the city center and reconstruction of historical buildings  should be taken from the shelf sooner or later ...

Vitaly Chernov