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Navigation on northern rivers begins in Russia

Any deliveries to those Arctic settlements in the warm season could be by water only
Podkamennaya Tunguska river Vladimir Medvedev/TASS
Podkamennaya Tunguska river
© Vladimir Medvedev/TASS

KRASNOYARSK, May 8. /TASS/. Russia opened on May 1 navigation on northern rivers and began resupplying northern regions with goods for next winter. Settlements in the Krasnoyarsk Region will be the first to receive goods. Any deliveries to those Arctic settlements in the warm season could be by water only. In Russia’s other Arctic regions the navigation seasons will begin in late May - early June. Experts told TASS about plans for the navigation.

"The Yenisei Shipping Company’s caravan left for the Podkamennaya Tunguska on May 1 thus opening the cargo navigation along that river," Nornickel - Yenisei River Shipping Company’s (Nornickel - YRSC) representative told TASS, adding a year earlier, in 2019, navigation there began on May 5.

According to the Krasnoyarsk Region’s Minister of Transport Konstantin Dimitrov, early navigation on some rivers is explained by the warm spring. "We have adjusted preparations for the navigation due to warm air and early deicing," he told TASS. "We plan that navigation on the Angara will begin on May 15, which is ten days earlier, than it was in 2019."

A restive river

The Yenisei River Shipping Company told TASS it would deliver along the Podkamennaya Tunguska cargo for next winter as well as socially important goods and fuel for distanced settlements. Weather experts had forecasted the river would appear from under the ice in early May - by that time the shipping company’s 21 tugs, six bulk carriers, six tankers and 28 barges should be by the estuary to enter the river while the water level in it remains high. The Podkamennaya Tunguska is the most complicated river in the country: fast currents, a large number of rapids, and a winding riverbed. Sailing there requires special attention and high skills.

Another aspect is the water depth, necessary for cargo vessels. It remains in the river for 10-14 days, and all cargoes should be delivered within that time. "For the river sailors it is the most complicated and responsible task, as we can work only during the high-water season, within this limited time and in complicated navigation situations on the river tributaries," Nornickel - YRSC’s Director General Oleg Shpagin said. "We may face a task to deliver just 100-150 tonnes to a settlement, but this task may require very much effort."

The other Arctic regions traditionally will open the navigation season later on - in late May or early June.

Plans for summer navigation deliveries

The Krasnoyarsk Region’s 117 settlements, where about 70,000 live, receive cargoes within summer navigations. This year, 221,700 tonnes (fuel) will be delivered there. Every year, about 5.8 million tonnes of various cargoes are delivered along rivers in the Krasnoyarsk Region. In 2020, the regional budget allocates 5.2 billion rubles ($70 million) for fuel deliveries.

Yakutia, Russia’s region with least roads, receives about 3 million tonnes of cargoes during summer navigations. "More than 1,238,000 tonnes are socially important goods," Yakutia’s authorities told TASS.

Settlements in the Nenets Region expect 12,000 tonnes of oil products, 20,500 tonnes of coal and 7,500 cubic meters of firewood. The main carrier of energy resources - the Nenets Oil Company - stresses it has not delivered firewood and coal earlier. The freight turnover will grow by 5%, the company added.

Working in the pandemic

Yakutia, where navigation begins in June only, says the coronavirus pandemic has not changed the navigation period. However, shipping companies normally employ personnel from other regions, and this year, before starting shifts, people will have to observe two-week quarantine. The Yenisei River Shipping Company tests crews before allowing them to voyages. Those preventive measures mean extra costs for businesses.

"The pandemic would not delay the navigation. The deliveries in this region are made by water transport, both by rivers and seas," the Nenets Oil Company’s Director of Communications Natalya Rocheva told TASS. "We do not expect any problems related to deliveries of energy resources by water."

In order to send cargo to Russia’s most distanced region - Chukotka, containers at first travel by railroad, and then by sea. "First containers have left Moscow, they are taken by rail to the Maritime Territory, and from there they will be taken to Chukotka by sea," Chukotka’s food supplier told TASS. "The cargo’s biggest part are socially important food products. This year, our company will charter five ships to deliver cargo from the Maritime Territory."

Alternative energy may replace summer resupplies of fuel

The Murmansk Region has an alternative to annual cargo deliveries and expensive fuel resupplies. Distanced settlements have been equipped with wind generators and solar batteries. Those settlements now need only shipments of diesel for generators, which are used as reserve energy sources or as chargers when solar batteries lack the sunlight.

"We do not have summer deliveries, just passenger routes, and any cargo is transported by businesses. Fuel - yes, we announce competitions and winners deliver fuel in due time. In the past, when we did not have wind generators, we used to bring in more than 600 tonnes, while now - about 205 tonnes for our five hard-to-reach settlements," the Tersky District’s official Fyodor Tereshchuk told TASS.

The Arkhangelsk Region does not have to finance summer deliveries either. "Our situation is slightly different, but anyway it is different from what it used to be like in the early 2000s. We do not use even that notion - summer deliveries - financed by subsidies and the budget. Every energy supplying company brings in resources (coal, wood) for itself. The supervising bodies only make sure everything is done by November 1," the region’s press service told TASS.