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2019 April 17

Regulatory barriers hinder development of seaports on the Don river

Legislative framework is to be adjusted to ensure infrastructure development in seaports of Rostov-on-Don and Azov: the maritime status obtained in 2009 obliges them to apply maritime standards of design and construction while the conditions are typical for rivers.

Also, the absence of a development programme for these ports hinders the construction of new ships: companies operating in the region are not sure about the future dimensions of the navigation pass. The above-mentioned issues were discussed at the roundtable meeting dedicated to the state and problems of Rostov-on-Don and Azov seaports arranged by the ad hoc committee of the Rostov Region’s Legislative Assembly.

The ports of Rostov-on-Don and Azov have been functioning as seaports for 10 years. The obtained the status of seaports in summer 2009. In compliance with the RF Government’s decision dated 5 May 2008, they were excluded from the list of inland water ways of the Russian Federation approved by RF Government on 19 December 2002 (№ 1800-р). New borders of Azov and Rostov-on-Don port were set by RF Government Decrees dated 30 December 2009 (No 2122-р) and 14 July 2010 (No 1160-р) accordingly.

Over this period, both port have demonstrated a considerable growth of performance. According to Sergey Safonichev, head of Azov Sea Port Administration, aggregate throughput of Rostov-on-Don and Azov has more than doubled with the number of calls having increased 2.8 times. In 2008, total cargo flow via the two ports slightly exceeded 17 million tonnes. In 2018, it exceeded 37 million tonnes. As for the number of calls, it grew from 4,500 calls in 2008 to more than 12,000 calls in 2018.

According to Harbour Master Vladimir Bragin, the number of passages along the Azov-Don Canal grew by 70% to 18,963 units in 2018 (excluding small-size ships). Throughput of the port of Azov totaled 12,909 million tonnes in 2018, up 43% versus the level of 2008. Throughput of Rostov-on-Don port totaled 24.1 million tonnes vs 8.8 million tonnes in 2008, said Daniil Buslenko, Acting Harbour Master of Rostov-on-Don port.

According to Sergey Safonichev, average number of arrivals, departures and transit passages is between 110 and 120 per day which make the frequency of operations comparable to the world’s leading ports and airports.

Sergey Safonichev reminded that length of sea part if the Don river is about 62 including five sections with regulated one-way traffic and depth between 3.6 and 13 meters. Eastern winds are another factor limiting navigation as well as discharge of water from the Tsimlyansky water storage basin, Rostov railway bridge lifted three times per day if wind does not exceed 15 m/s and temperature is above 5 degrees below zero.  

The ports of Rostov-on-Don and Azov are freezing ports with challenging ice conditions, added Sergey Safonichev. 

When it comes to cargo volumes and, consequently, the profitability for cargo and ship owners, it depends on ship draft allowed depending, in its turn, on water level “We can accept vessels with draft not exceeding 3.5 meters”, said Daniil Buslenko. 

According to him, the width of the navigation passage decreased from 170 meters in 2010 to 75 meters in 2018. 

With the change of the ports’ status, the responsibility for maintenance of their water area was handed over from Azov-Don Basin Department to Azov-Don Basin Branch of FSUE Rosmorport

The Branch has arranged works on the development of a new project – repair dredging on the Azov-Don Canal in 2020-2030, told Andrey Vakhrushev, Director of Rosmorport’s Azov-Don Basin Branch. 

He said that the scope of dredging was between 200,000 and 630,000 cbm per year in 2011-2018.

However, dredging on river parts of seaport was not possible due to absence of project documentation currently being approved by ad hoc authorities.

“In the future, this documentation will let perform regular dredging to maintain 4-meter depth between 3121 km and 3169 km on the Don river”, explained Andrey Vakhrushev.

Besides, the fleet community of the Rostov Region has submitted a proposal to ensure the depth of 4.5 meters on the Azov-Don Canal to compensate the impact of offshore winds leading to considerable change of depth which stops both transit navigation and transportation of cargo loaded in Rostov and Azov. Transportation of local cargo also stops in this case, says Oleg Sidorkin, Director of Shipping Agency ‘Interagent’ LLC.

The proposal was prepared by Don Water Transport Association and forwarded to Rosmorrechflot (Federal Marine and River Transport Agency).

Since this initiative implies considerable financial investments, minimization of dredging and construction costs can be ensured by application river standards since before 2009 this sector was a part of Russia’s inland water ways. 

Sergey Safonichev emphasized that there are different expert opinions on reasonability of depth of over 4 meters. According to him, additional research and surveys are needed.

According to the head of Azov Sea Port Administration, operation of terminals and navigation in Azov and Rostov-on-Don ports is currently supported by 34 tugboats, 39 bunkering ships, 5 water carrying barges and ships, 20 units of ecological fleet, one dredging unit and four line icebreakers.  However, he age of the mentioned units is between 30 and 50 years with some 60 years old vessels. “Of course, if we plan to proceed, port infrastructure should be rebuilt and upgraded so that it could correspond to traffic growing from year to year”, emphasized Sergey Safonichev.

Meanwhile, the regional shipping business community says that the construction of new fleet and development of infrastructure at the ports of Rostov-on-Don and Azov is not possible without legislative improvements. 

“The newbuilds are to be used for decades – new construction projects will not appear without clear development prospects and a comprehensive programme”, said Oleg Sidorkin.

According to him, another factor hindering the development of ports is the need to apply design standards approved for seaports. 

Oleg Sidorkin told about the findings of a research ordered by the Association and held by Stapel in 2016. The specialists came to a conclusion that application of maritime design standards which are tougher as compared with river ones does not let increase the number of vessels, the amount of cargo and the development of infrastructure at the ports of Azov and Rostov-on-Don. “Taking into consideration the necessity to decrease idle time of vessels, increase cargo flow and transit at the ports of Azov and Rostov-on-Don and in the mouth of the river, in conditions of river navigation, it is reasonable to apply the standards of IWW port designing”, Oleg Sidorkin read out the conclusion.

He emphasized that it does not mean the change of the seaports’ status. It is just about introduction of additions to the legislation on operation of Rostov-on-Don and Azov seaports in river regime since they are actually located on the Don river.

Elena Tkacheva