2023 March 15
Restricted shipping in the Sea of Azov, sanctions against Russian companies, challenging weather conditions – the year of 2022 was not easy for the Azov-Don basin of inland waterways. However, it is still a promising region for building up the cargo base. The construction of the Bagaevsky hydrosystem continues on the Don river, and year-round shipping through the basin towards the Caspian and the Azov seas will be launched the future.
In his interview with IAA PortNews, Sergey Gaidayev, Head of Azov-Don Basin Administration, tells about the results of 2022 and the plans for the future.
— Mr. Gaidayev, FTI Rostransmodernizatsiya has been acting as the customer under the Bagaevsky hydrosystem project from January 2022 having replaced Rosmorrechflot. What has changed in your supervision of the construction? Have you coordinated the activities with the General Contractor and Rostransmodernizatsiya?
— That’s right. RF Ministry of Transport has established the Federal Treasury Institution “Directorate for the implementation of transport infrastructure complex development projects” (FTI Rostransmodernizatsiya). It is the customer of the project on construction of the Bagaevsky hydrosystem from January 2022. In spite of this, specialists of our Administration conduct regular on-site monitoring of the construction. When necessary, we also hold working meetings with the General Contractor’s representatives for a prompt addressing of arising issues.
— What works were accomplished under the project in 2022 and what is planned for 2023?
— Large-scale preparations were conducted in 2022 as part of the main phase of the construction. In particular, a sheet piling of the main pit was made for the construction of a shipping lock chamber and a spillway dam. The excavation work in the main pit is in full swing. The construction of the approach canals has started. They will not only ensure convenient approaching of ships but will also provide a place for vessels waiting for passage of locks. Guiding walls are being built to ensure a smooth entry of vessels into the lock chamber.
A fish passage and spawning complex is being built at a high pace. It is of particular importance for the development of fishery in the Don region. An artificial spawning area will enhance the feeding opportunities for fish, and the capacity of the canal will rise 2.5 - 3 times.
Dredging works are planned at the lower and upper pools, excavation in the main pit, installation of the main structures of the hydrosystem. The construction of industrial, service, and auxiliary facilities will begin, as well as a settlement for operators. Besides, the work will continue on the arrangement of spawning grounds, the fish passage canal, and the approach canals. The construction of bank protection dams will begin.
— In 2022, the navigation season ended later than in the previous years. The conditions were challenging with strong winds, shallowing of Don and the congestion of ships. What measures were undertaken to finalize the season successfully?
— The winds causing the surge phenomena are normal on the Don. Therefore, measures aimed at the safe laying-up of ships during critical level periods were based on the past practice and the experience of recent years. They were developed and successfully applied by the navigation safety service. Safe anchorage was ensured for transit ships with a draft not allowing to move in shallow waters.
By the order of Rosmorrechflot, navigation season of 2022 was extended until 20 December 2022 in order to let the fleet leave the basin for the water area of Rostov-on-Don port and to let the convoy of ships led by I/B Kaptan Demidov go through the Azov-Don basin to the Volga river.
Thanks to the competent work of the adjacent basins, we and the Rostov-on-Don port’s authorities managed to withdraw the entire fleet from the basin safely and without accidents although the weather forced the Administration make some adjustments into the planned works.
— According to the statistics of Rosmorrechflot, cargo turnover in the Azov-Don Basin in 2022 was the lowest over the history of monitoring.
— Over the navigation season of 2022, cargo turnover in the Azov-Don Basin totaled 5.930 million tonnes, which makes 67.3% of the 2021 result, or by 2.883 million tonnes less than in 2021 (8.813 million tonnes).
The bulk of the cargo was made by wheat – 1.442 million tonnes (24.3 % of the total volume), heavy fuel oil – 947 thousand tonnes (16%), vacuum gasoil – 838 thousand tonnes (14.1%). The major cause for the decrease was the restriction on shipping in the Sea of Azov in the beginning of the navigation season and the sanctions imposed by the western countries against the companies of the Russian Federation and some types of cargo.
The steepest fall in the transit was that of heavy fuel oil – 947 thousand tonnes (-40.0%, year-on-year).
— In 2021, good dynamics was demonstrated by the port of Ust-Donetsk. What was its result in 2022? Has the port managed to build up its cargo base?
— In 2022, Ust-Donetsk handled 455 thousand tonnes of cargo, which makes 50.8% of the 2021 result (896 thousand tonnes). The cargo base has been kept in general but the decrease should be explained by the absence of sulphur handling: 14 thousand tonnes in 2022 versus 316 thousand tonnes in 2021.
Apart from the port of Ust-Donetsk, our Administration runs nine piers which handled 1.069 million tonnes in 2022 (in 2021 – 1.554 million tonnes).
A new pier will be put into operation in 2023 for shipment of construction aggregate with a maximum performance of 300 thousand tonnes per year. We are certain about the growth potential of piers. The growth of shipments from them should be driven by grain and mineral aggregate materials.
— What were the passenger flows in 2022? A lot is currently being done to revive passenger navigation on Don. What is your opinion about this initiative?
— In the navigation season of 2022, passenger flows were close to those registered before 2020. More than 38 thousand people were carried in the basin, which makes 119.2% of the previous year result (in 2021 – over 32 thousand people). The results of internal transportation – 26 thousand people - 68% of the total number of passengers. We are positive about the organization of passenger navigation on the Don river and we believe that regular river routes will be popular among the passengers.
— Were there problems with the water level last year?
— Yes, the year of 2022, just like the recent few years, was characterized by a low spring inflow to the Tsimlyansk reservoir. The multi-year water reserves have not been fully restored. The actual inflow during the spring flood was 6.52 cubic km, which makes only 70.2% of the norm. The maximum level of the reservoir was 34.09 m BS while the normal level is 36.00 m BS.
No shipping release was undertaken during the navigation period in order to preserve water resources. In this regard, draft restrictions were introduced. On the section of the Seversky Donets River restrictions were effective from July to November 2022, on the section of the Don River - from August 24 to 30.
— What was the scope of dredging and bottom-cleaning works?
— In the navigation season of 2022, dredging works were carried as planned and foreseen by the state task. Two dredgers with a total capacity of 1,200 cbm/h were deployed. The scope of dredging on the Don River totaled 719.9 thousand cbm, on the Seversky Donets River - 86.7 thousand cbm. No dredging was carried out on the Manych River. Bottom-cleaning works in the navigation season of 2022 were carried out from May to September with the their total volume having reached 385 cbm.
— Active construction of vessels is underway at Russian shipyards today, particularly for the needs of basin administrations. What about your fleet? Are there any types of ships you need?
— There are 49 units under our operational management today. That is a fleet of dredgers, tugs, buoy tenders and auxiliary support vessels. The service life of some vessels has already been exceeded or it is critical, so there is a need for modernization, first of all, of auxiliary vessels within the dredging fleet, buoy tenders, tugs and ecological vessels.
The schedule foresees the construction of some vessels of various purposes for the needs of the Azov-Don Basin. They will be delivered between 2025 and 2030.
In view of the technical condition of the dredging fleet in our basin, and the decrease of works after the completion of the Bagayevsky hydrosystem project, three dredgers being in operation today will be replaced with two units of Project 93.159. Thus, by 2025 we plan to receive a new bucket-wheel dredger of Project 93.159, and by 2027 - a new bucket-wheel dredger of Project 93.159.
— Last year, the project of year-round navigation on the section of the Caspian - Azov waterway was under extensive discussions. What issues need to be solved for the successful implementation of this project, in your opinion?
— To ensure the successful implementation of these activities, a whole range of tasks should be solved, primarily the legal and regulatory support of the extended navigation. It is necessary to adjust the existing regulations and to develop new rules.
In our basin, it is necessary to perform the reconstruction of Lock No. 1 to ensure safe navigation through the Kochetovsky hydrosystem, replace the movable dam with a reinforced concrete spillway, upgrade the hydraulic drives of the upper head of Lock No. 2, install pneumatic systems along the walls as an anti-icing measure.
It is necessary to develop power supply systems to provide power to heating systems and anti-icing devices of the hydraulic engineering facilities. As part of the modernization of electrical equipment, it is also necessary to create an automated control system for heating and anti-icing equipment and optimize the control systems.
It is also necessary to build a fish passage and spawning canal around the Kochetovsky hydrosystem. In order to ensure the guaranteed dimensions within the Volgodonsk-Aksai section (guaranteed depth - 3.4 meters), it is necessary to ensure year-round navigation water releases.
To enable the movement of transit vessels in ice conditions, two icebreakers and six ice-class support vessels have to be built.