“Okay, let’s work it out,” the Russian president said after discussing how to transport more fish products from the Far East with the help of the nuclear-powered container ship “Sevmorput.” At a meeting on agriculture and the food industry, which took place via video link from outside Moscow, the question arose as to how to increase fish deliveries from the Far East to the European part of Russia.
A third of all Russian fishing comes from Kamchatka. Deliveries to the markets in the most populous areas, nine-time zones to the west of Russia pose a challenge for Russian railways, which do not have refrigerated transporters.
The acting governor of Kamchatka territory, Vladimir Solodow, said that the fish companies in his region first supply fish products for deliveries to Moscow to Vladivostok. The serious lack of transport capacity for onward transport delays and makes proper processing more expensive. Especially during the high season from July to September, when most of the salmon is caught.
“In our opinion, the solution could be to actively use the Northern Sea Route to deliver fish to the central regions of Russia,” Governor Solodow said, according to the minutes of the video conference. He estimates that about 60,000 tons of Pacific salmon could be shipped via the Northern Sea Route. In the longer term, the volume could be increased to 250-300,000 tonnes.
The governor’s words were music in the ears of Vladimir Putin. The Russian President has made it a national priority to transport at least 80 million tonnes of goods a year through the Northeast Passage by 2024. Last year, 31.5 million tonnes were shipped on the route.
Twice as fast
Transporting fish directly from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky across the Arctic and around Scandinavia to St. Petersburg is twice as fast as loading it to Vladivostok for transhipment on the Trans-Siberian Railway, Governor Solodov said.
Rosatom Director Alexei Lichachev was also present at the meeting. Rosatom is responsible for the development of infrastructure along the Northern Sea Route as well as for the operation of the world’s only nuclear-powered civilian cargo ship “Sevmorput”.
“We absolutely support what The Governor Vladimir Viktorovich Solodov said,” said Rosatom’sdirector. Lichachev told Putin that he could solve the challenge with the capacities of the freighter “Sevmorput”. “We would be willing to make two to four trips a year,” he said.
What Lichachov did not mention was that last year’s second trip with fish products with the “Sevmorput” from Petropavlovsk to St. Petersburg was cancelled because it turned out to be less profitable than expected.
Last year unprofitable
“According to information, this was due to a decrease in export demand from ports in Eastern Europe in July-August 2019 and the resulting significant reduction in freight volumes from St. Petersburg to ports in Asia. The volume of freight for these routes has decreased by 20,” Rosatom said, stressing that the “Sevmorput” business model is based on bringing back cargo on its way east.
“Based on the results of the test transport, the fishing companies in the Far East reaffirmed their interest and cost-effectiveness in pursuing fish transport along the Northern Sea Route,” Rosatom said. The test shipment in September last year was the first time a civilian nuclear-powered ship carrying cargo sailed along the Scandinavian coast to St. Petersburg.
“Sevmorput” – 30 years old
“Sevmorput” is 30 years old and is powered by a KLT-40 reactor, similar to the reactor on board the “Taymyr” and “Vaygach” icebreakers. Following a 2015 retrofitting and safety assessment, the life of the reactor was extended to 150,000 hours to keep the “Sevmorput” in operation until 2024.
Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal