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“Such ships have not yet been built in Russia”

The country is returning to the world market with the most powerful icebreaker and Aframax tankers

In 2020, the Zvezda shipbuilding complex will begin operation of the dry dock - three years ahead of the originally planned deadline. Dry dock is the heart of any shipyard, in fact, it means that Zvezda will practically reach a new level of capacity next year. The dock, which will be launched at the shipyard, will make it possible to build any ships there without limiting launching mass and tonnage. EastRussia found out how the shipbuilding cluster is developing in the Far East, and what Russia will get when the company reaches its design capacity.

“Such ships have not yet been built in Russia”


The USSR was one of the world leaders in shipbuilding, although many contracts were awarded to enterprises in the countries of “people's democracy”. After the collapse of the Union, the industry turned out to be among the most affected along with other types of engineering. In fact, shipbuilding as such in Russia has ceased. So, from 1995 to 2005, only 4% of orders for the construction of ships were placed at domestic enterprises, the rest was ordered abroad.

The decision to build the latest shipbuilding complex in the Far East at the government level was made in 2008-2009, and in 2013, according to the president’s instructions, the concept of creating a shipbuilding cluster on the basis of Zvezda appeared. In 2015, the shipyard under construction at the Eastern Economic Forum received its first contracts.

The features of shipbuilding as an industry make it ideal for development within the framework of large state programs, explained in 2017 Minister of Industry Denis Manturov. Orders in shipbuilding are designed for years, this smooths out the negative impact of financial crises, Manturov said. Of great importance is the fact that the share of military orders is historically high in shipbuilding (today in Russia it is about 80%), which also contributes to stability.


According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, there are 180 private and state shipbuilding enterprises in Russia. The total number of employees is 184 thousand people. Since 2013, the industry has moved from a state of unprofitability to stable profit. The portfolio of orders of domestic shipbuilding enterprises was formed until 2030.


Russian breakthrough amid the Korean crisis

SSK Zvezda's order book is the best indicator of the needs of the domestic market. The portfolio contains 39 contracts (including options - 59), and this despite the fact that the company itself is not yet completed. The anchor customer was Rosneft. At the same time, new capacities are being built, old ones are being modernized, and ships are actually being built, the general director of Zvezda Sergey Tseluyko explained to reporters. Today, eight vessels are at different stages of construction, the company said. These are four Aframax tankers and four multifunction supply vessels. The serial production of Aframaxes on Zvezda has essentially already begun: the first ship was laid down in 2017, three others in 2018 and 2019.


Aframax is a type of large vessel (mainly tankers) with a deadweight of 80 to 120 thousand tons. A serious competitive advantage of vessels of this type is the navigation area: they can move both within the same sea and over longer distances, and most importantly, pass channels inaccessible to larger vessels.

In recent years, global (and Russian) demand for ships of this type has been on the rise. This is due to both the increase in oil production in OPEC countries and the crisis in the throughput of traditional channels (Suez and Panama). This type of vessel is of particular importance in connection with the construction of the East Siberia - Pacific Ocean pipeline: according to Lloyd's calculations, the pipeline will increase demand for Aframaks, which can pick up cargo at almost any port.

Until recently, ships of this type were ordered in South Korea and in China. But in the 2010s, South Korean shipbuilding was in crisis. It was the result of rapid, uncontrolled growth and managerial mistakes. Since 2016, South Korean shipbuilders have gone negative in terms of profit, the receipt of new orders has practically stopped. This has increased attention to Russian projects.

The first Aframax-type tanker assembled at Zvezda will be launched next year, with a deadweight of 114 thousand tons. The vessel was built taking into account the latest environmental requirements, it is capable of operating both on traditional and alternative fuels (liquefied natural gas). This decision reflects the growing global attention to carbon footprint and minimization. Environmental technologies dramatically increase the competitiveness of products in modern markets, according to a recent study by OECD experts.

Serial construction of Aframaks in Russia is “not only an indicator of technological growth, production, personnel potential of the shipbuilding industry, but also a matter of national security and independence,” recently said the head of Rosneft Igor Sechin. The construction of Aframaks and the Governor of Primorye Oleg Kozhemyako called the “new era in shipbuilding”.

“Nobody built such ships in Russia. And I’m sure that shipbuilders will cope with all plans and schedules. And after that, new orders will come, which will ensure revenue to the regional budget, create new jobs, ”he noted at the ceremony of starting construction.

Also next year the first supply vessel will be launched. This is a reinforced ice class vessel capable of operating in the most adverse climatic conditions (in particular, breaking through ice up to two meters thick). Procurement - ships are small but complex, because they carry a large amount of modern equipment, said Sergei Tseluyko. 

Finally, the construction of the atomic icebreaker Leader will soon begin. The project is unique in terms of technical solutions, in particular, a new type of nuclear reactor will be installed on the icebreaker.

“This is the largest nuclear icebreaker in the world. This icebreaker will be able to break ice up to four meters thick, said Russian President Vladimir Putin visiting the enterprise. “A decision has been made to build these ice-breaking class ships to ensure year-round pilotage of vessels along the northern route.”

Creating a new type of vessel, Zvezda masters the modern technologies of construction and organization of production.


Personnel for modern production

A modern large enterprise must think about corporate and social responsibility. No wonder the staff of the world's largest companies certainly has the position of a top manager responsible for sustainable development. In relation to the Russian Far East, this trend receives an additional dimension. The ultimate goal of projects in the Far East is to improve the lives of citizens, increase prosperity, and develop this once "abandoned" region, spoke at speeches at the Eastern Economic Forum in September. The society expects that not only the economy as a whole will benefit from the creation of a modern shipbuilding cluster in the Far East, but also the quality of life of people will increase.

Today, the company employs about 3,5 thousand people, after reaching its design capacity, the number of employees will increase to 7,5 thousand people. BUT SSK Zvezda, like other shipbuilding enterprises, is faced with a shortage of personnel. Despite the fact that 85% of employees are residents of Primorsky Krai, it will not work to fully form the staff of local residents, since production requires unique competencies; cadres are searched across the country.

“For people who have moved from other regions that fall under the labor mobility program, the road is paid, the costs of renting and arranging it are partially compensated, and a one-time allowance is paid,” says Sergei Tseluyko.

All methods are involved: career guidance programs in universities, targeted training agreements, work with employment centers. The shipyard plans to create its own training center.

New employees are new housing, it was impossible to resettle such a number of people in a small city. Housing construction is no less important than the construction of the shipyard itself. According to the enterprise, now there are six microdistricts under construction in Bolshoi Kamen, in total 69 houses for 4594 apartments will be built.


Concentration of effort

The emergence of a shipbuilding cluster in the Far East is important in itself, as large projects have a synergistic effect on the development of Russian industry as a whole, and in conjunction with Russia's plans to become leaders in the supply of hydrocarbons in the Asia-Pacific region. It was during the visit to the “Star” of the President of Russia that the final decision was made to build a liquefied natural gas plant. Its capacity will be 6,2 million tons per year, the resource base will be the Sakhalin-1 project fields and Rosneft’s own gas reserves, totaling more than 350 billion cubic meters. Revenues to the budget for the entire duration of the project are expected to amount to more than five trillion rubles. Recall that oil and gas companies are key customers for new vessels. In order to realize plans to enter the Asia-Pacific markets, Rosneft will need its own fleet, said, in particular, the head of the company Igor Sechin during one of his visits to Zvezda.

Zvezda, the construction of which began before our eyes, will reach its design capacity in just a few years (according to plans - by 2024) and become the country's largest shipbuilding enterprise. On Zvezda, they will be able to build ships up to 300 meters long and with a deadweight of up to 350 thousand tons, a year the company will be able to launch up to 15 vessels of various types, follows from the company's materials.

The success of a number of state-owned companies shows that the decision made at the time to create powerful production clusters with state participation was correct, says Ruslan Greenberg, economist and corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

“After the economy was fragmented during the economic transformations of the 1990s on the principle of“ save, who can, ”and everyone crawled into their“ apartments, ”it came to be understood that with the giants that were then just forming in the world market, only giants can compete. The time has come to collect stones, ”notes Greenberg.

The ultimate goal is the formation on the basis of the new industrial landscape of a new production strategy of the country and overcoming the primitivization of the domestic structure of the economy. Today, the main discussion around state-owned corporations is focused not on the “need-not need” question, but on methods for calculating their effectiveness, the economist adds. Since financial results can not always be an unambiguous criterion for success, some, even quite liberal liberal economists, urge corporations to formulate state tasks almost in kind. This is too radical a decision, Greenberg believes, but on the whole, a glance at state-owned business without rose-colored glasses is only beneficial to all participants in the process, he believes.

“Of course, without enterprises like Zvezda, there would be, frankly, nothing in the Russian economy,” Grinberg emphasizes. “But the expert community and the regulator must constantly remember that improving the structure of the economy should always be in the spotlight.”

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