To build everything
With the completion of the project on construction of shipbuilding complex Zvezda, Russia can obtain an integrated system for building large capacity vessels: large pre-outfitted blocks will be manufactured by private shipyards and shipbuilding companies of USC with further assembling at Zvezda shipyard. However, there underlying potential problems.
Russian shipbuilding industry can turn into one large consortium. According to Dmitry Rogozin, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, when the project on construction of shipbuilding complex Zvezda is completed, Russia will be able to build vessels of any size – tankers with deadweight of up to 350,000 t and Arctic-class gas carriers of up to 250,000 dwt, as well as warships including an aircraft carrier with displacement exceeding 100,000 t. Nuclear-powered leader icebreakers can also be built there. According to Dmitry Rogozin, excavations have been started at the construction site for a 114-metre wide trench.
“Now we are not limited in terms of tonnage of warships and civil vessels that can be built there”, said the official.
Moreover, Zvezda can crown domestic shipbuilding industry as a lock of a technological chain. According to Denis Manturov, Minister of Industry and Trade, with the Goliath cranes of 1,200 t in capacity Zvezda will be able to assemble pre-outfitted blocks that can be manufacture by other shipyards, both USC and non-USC shipyards.
The question is actually if this system proves to be competitive when compared with S. Korean shipbuilders. It is unlikely that anybody will have large capacity tankers or gas carriers built in Russia, except for Russian vertically integrated oil and gas companies (VIOCs) involved in development of offshore, mostly Arctic, fields.
In fact, Zvezda is a project of a consortium of companies headed by Rosneft and other VIOCs seem to be cautious about it.
For example, Aleksandr Tarkhov, Deputy Director General for Fleet and Capital Construction at Gazprom Flot, said at Offshore Marintec Russia, International Offshore and Maritime Exhibition & Conference, (October 2016) that his company had a negative experience of cooperating with the Far Eastern Shipbuilding and Ship Repair Center, at the premises of which Zvezda is being built.
“FESRC is not only a company under court proceedings... it also claims orders to be forwarded to Zvezda. There is a question about reasonability of awarding contracts to Zvezda. Let Rosneft first see to FESRC having ensured the series construction. The placement of orders can be considered afterwards”, said Aleksandr Tarkhov.
Besides, state-owned USC also has its own development plans and it would not mind building leader icebreakers at its Severnaya Verf and Baltiysky Zavod shipyards supposed to undergo special modernization.
Construction facilities sufficient for nuclear-powered leader icebreakers are also available at Zaliv shipyard in the Crimea, which is not within the United Shipbuilding Corporation.
In this context, VIOCs (excluding Rosneft) can prefer well-proved suppliers from S. Korea, icebreakers will be built by USC shipyards, other vessels – at private shipyards and in Crimea. With this scenario, investments in Zvezda will not pay back. Therefore, some legislative incentives or administrative pressure is quite possible to back this project. On the other hand, state protectionism normally results in reduction of quality and failure to meet the delivery date.
Nevertheless, if there are many orders there will be sufficient work for all companies. When speaking about large vessels and warships, the Government has a plan to build three leader icebreakers by 2025. Construction of an aircraft carrier and helicopter carriers is under consideration. Contracts have been signed to build 35 fishing ships. The demand for smaller ships numbers hundreds of units. The bulk of them is needed for the development of Arctic fields.