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27.05.15 02:10
Report concerning tnker problems at the International Conference "Argus NefteTransport 2015"

The International Conference "Argus NefteTransport 2015" took place in Baku on 21-21.05.2015. The Director General of Marine Engineering Bureau, professor Gennady Egorov introduced report "Tanker's fleet for the Caspian Sea and mixed river-sea navigation: state, tendencies and new ideas".
It was noted in the report that the new 2015 year had to become critical concerning problem of prospects for the considerable part of river and river-sea tankers.
How did we meet 2015? 178 self-propelled and 74 non-self-propelled vessels were built since 2000. This amount includes 130 tankers, 3 combined vessels and 28 barges of the mostly important "Volgo-Don Max" type.
Table 1. Actual tanker fleet incoming for river, river-sea and restricted marine types during the XXI century (data for 15.05.2015).
Vessel's typeBuiltNotes
Self-propelled "Volgo-Don Max" class vessels/B>133+ 15 under construction
Tankers130+ 10 under construction
Combined vessels3+ 5 under construction
Self-propelled vessels of other classess45
Tankers of other classess12
Tankers especially for the Caspian Sea21
Bunkering tankers12
Non-self-propelled "Volgo-Don Max" tankers28
Non-self-propelled tankers of other classess46
Tugboats and tug-pushers5038 for Siberian, Far East and Far North
Tug-pushers of 1400-1800 kW8
Tugboats and tug-pushers of 400-600 kW17
Tugboats and tug-pushers of 250 kW and less25

Source: Marine Engineering Bureau.
As appears from the Table 2, new vessels' construction considerably grew in 2011-2013 that visually confirmed efficiency of the federal law due to support of the Russian shipbuilding and navigation adopted in 2011.
Table 2. Summarized statistics concerning new vessels in 2000-2015
YearTanker's classess
Tankers of "Volgo-Don Max" classTankers of other classessTotal of tankers
Built + under construction133 + 1545178 + 15

16 river-sea tankers that are able for work at the European part of RF inland waterways were put into operation in 2014; this amount includes:14 tankers of "Volgo-Don Max" type:
4 vessels of RST27 prj;
1 vessel of RST22M prj;
2 vessels of 52 prj;
5 vessels of HCR0805 prj (China);
1 platform tanker of RST54 prj.;
1 ore-bulk-oil carriers of ALB06 prj;
2 tankers of "BBC" type:
1 vessel of RST05 prj;
1 vessel of RST26 prj.
Besides, 3 river RT18 bunkering tankers were built last year.
In 2013 our shipowners received a number of vessels, as follows: 11 vessels of the RST27 prj.; 3 vessels of RST25 prj.; 1 vessel of RST22M prj.; 2 vessels of 19900 prj.; 1 vessel of 52 prj.; 3 vessels of HCR0805 prj.; 1 vessel of 507AT prj.; 1 vessel of RST05 prj.
Thus, 14 river-sea "Volga-Don Max" tankers were built in 2014 against 22 this class vessels in 2013 and 22 vessels in 2012.
In 2015 we already received (or fully or about): 2 tankers of RST27 prj.; 2 platform tankers of RST54 prj.; 4 tankers of RST22M prj.
In general, it is possible to assume that the domestic shipowners' fleet will grow in this year by:
3-4 tankers of RST27 prj.;
3-4 platform tankers of RST54 prj.;
5-7 tankers of RST22M prj.;
1-2 tankers of RST25 prj.
i.e. totally by 12-17 vessels due to Marine Engineering Bureau projects plus 2 China built vessels.
In comparison with 2012-2013, tankers' building rate decreased though it is far enough to the saturation of the new vessels market.
The first problem.
There is an excess of the tonnage because "old" tankers slow leave the market (there are more than 300 vessels); the majority of them don't meet requirements of MARPOL and domestic Technical Regulations. Simultaneously there is falling of transportation dollar rates while ruble rates are kept in the railway transportation; as a result part of cargoes shifted to the railway transportation.
Same time, 151 "Volgoneft" tankers with mean age of 41.5, 49 "Lenaneft" R-77 tankers (37 years) and 28 single-hull ore-bulk-oil carriers cannot be accepted as safe tool for dangerous goods transportation.
Only 5 "Volgoneft" vessels were modernized to meet all MARPOL requirements, and other 30 ones were modernized by raising tank top only (i.e. MARPOL requirements are met partially). Situation with other "old" tankers are absolutely not better (see the Table 3).
Table 3. Main types of "old" tankers and level of conforming to MARPOL
ProjectVessels' numberMean ageRaising tank top modernizationFully met MARPOL
"Volgoneft" type15141,5355
550, 550A (RRR)3537,610
550, 550A (RS)536,6
1577 (RRR)4842,013
1577 (RS)1041,855
"Lenaneft" type8632,51010
621 (RRR)829,6
621 (RS)2126,0
630 (RS)824,366
-77 (RRR)4537,322
-77 (RS)435,022
"Ore-bulk-oil carrier" type2834,1
1570 (RS)2633,6
1570 (RRR)136,0
1553 (RRR)146,0
"Volzhsk" type, 050741531,1
"Volgo-Don" type740,81

The second problem. Financing (or more correct, absence of the acceptable rates and reasonable terms). The leading shipping companies, that built vessels a lot of in 2010-2013, now have many credits to pay.
The third problem. "Narrow" places of internal waterways. Insufficient depths at a number of places. Underloading of operated vessels; as a result, it's required more voyages to transport the set quantity of cargo (e.g. by 1.5 times more for VDSC). But the increased number of vessels running through a canal will increases time loss for lock passing waiting; respectively duration of the round voyage increases also.
The main cargo flow decreasing at RF inland waterways was met at 40 km part from Gorodetsk locks Nos. 15-16 till Balakhna. Only every fourth day vessels with draught 2.5 m were able to sail through there; in general only sailing with draught 1.9 m was provided. One may take into consideration that ensured vessel's draught is 3.6 m.
This year the situation in the southern part became complicated significantly too. Due to the predicted low-water at Lower Don, the Don Basin Waterway Administration developed working regime for Tsimlyansk Reservoir which will provide depths about 3.00 m.
One may understand that underloading of Volgo-Don Max vessel for 60 cm (i.e 3.00 m instead of 3.60 m) means cargo capacity loss of 1150-1370 t.
RosMorRechFlot made considerable efforts for elimination of "narrow" places, for example, building of the Nizhny Novgorod low pressure node is planned in 2016-2020; this facility has to solve Gorodetsk problem. Also the building second line of the Nizhne-Svirskiy lock has to be handed over by 2017; the documents' package for justification of the low pressure node on the Don River at the Bagayevskiy District is prepared.
Table 4. Underloading of the main tankers' type due to insufficient depth
River draught, m550A "Volgoneft"RST54 "Balt Flot"RST27 "VF Tanker"RST22 "New Armada"
Deadweight, tDeadweight loss, tDeadweight, tDeadweight loss, tDeadweight, tDeadweight loss, tDeadweight, tDeadweight loss, t

What will happen to "old" vessels?
The first: a legal part of the question (in fact, an obsolescence)
International law in the form of International MARPOL Convention prohibition doesn't let to use "single hull" tankers for marine transportation of heavy grade oil (s.g. > 0.9); "single hull" vessels include also and double hull ones if double bottom height or double sides breadth are less than required value.
Russian national requirements in the form of "Technical Regulation Concerning Safety of Inland Water Transport Objects" also prohibit (from 01.01.2015) "single hull" tankers usage for river transportation of any dangerous cargoes (including light oils and oil products).
However domestic shipowners has neither own funds for building new river-sea fleet nor sufficient deposit property to get credit.
Therefore according to the Ministry of Transport offer, Government of Russian Federation adopted the following amendments to the Technical Regulation (The resolution N426 dd. 30.04.2015):
• from the 01.01.2015 all self-propelled tankers independently of built date with cargo capacity of 600 t or more that transport heavy grade oil (s.g. > 0.9), would have double bottom and double sides along whole breadth and height of cargo tanks; otherwise cargo tanks should be of independent type.
• from the 01.01.2018 all tankers independently of built date with cargo capacity of 200 t or more, will have double bottom and double sides along whole breadth and height of cargo tanks; otherwise cargo tanks should be of independent type. Seaworthiness of such vessels at ballast loading will be provide without taking ballast to the cargo tanks;
• tankers that operate at "O-PR", "M-PR" or "M-SP" areas shall have sufficient slop tanks for keeping washing water after washing cargo tanks if this operation is required by transportation regulations.
However there is also a certain intermediate group of vessels which were partially modernized for international requirements. Tank top was risen at 35 "Volgoneft" tankers, 10 "Lenaneft" tankers and one "Volga-Don" vessel (totally at 46 "old" vessels); from this amount 5 "Volgoneft" tankers and 10 "Lenaneft" tankers (6 ones for European part and 4 ones for the "Northern" delivery) were modernized to meet fully MARPOL requirements.
For vessels on which the international requirements were fulfilled partially (the dimensions of the double bottom and the double sides correspond to the Regulation 21 of the MARPOL Annex I), the protocol No.1 (dated May 14, 2015) issued by the State Politics Department at the Maritime and River Transport Sphere of RF Ministry of Transport permits to transport oil and oil products of heavy grades with a density over s.g.=0.9 within territorial waters of the Russian Federation.
The same protocol stopped the issuing of Exemption Certificates for MARPOL requirements. RF Transport Ministry issued these Certificates last years on the basis of the Protocol No. O-29 dated 09.12.2009.
Actually these amendments prolong operation of existing vessels that provide "northern delivery" (light petroleum products) and non-self-propelled barges (all oil products) for 3 years more.
Same time
(taking into account MARPOL requirements), "Volganeft" and "Lenaneft" type tankers (621 prj.), also modernized "Volzhsk" and "Volgo-Don" type vessels will be prohibited for masout and other hard petroleum products marine transportation since 01.01.2015. The prohibition list is enlarged by "Lenaneft" type tankers (R-77 prj.) and oil-ore carries at inland transportation. Since 01.01.2018 "Lenaneft" type tankers (R-77 prj.), oil-ore carries and other tankers without double bottom or double sides will be prohibited to work with light oils also.
Thus, from the legal point of view, the existing vessels with double bottom and double sides ("Volgoneft" vessels, "Lenaneft" vessels of projects 621 and 630, tankers of "Volga-Don" and "Volzsk" types) are able to transport light oils in the marine regions till January 1, 2018; part of them also are able to transport heavy liquids of s.g. > 0.9. After this date conformity to the additional MARPOL requirements should be required including slop tanks constructing.
The second: physical aging
There are 151 "Volgoneft" type tankers under operation; their mean age is of 41.5 years. Certainly, it is possible to take an example of passenger vessels of the Geneva Lake which safely work and are about 100 years old. But it is absolutely senseless to compare well-groomed "white" vessels with "trucks". In three years (by 2018) the mean age of "Volgoneft" vessels will reach 45 years and for some projects will exceed 50. It is necessary to understand that these vessels transport dangerous goods by internal waterways through St. Petersburg, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, Saratov, Nizhny Novgorod.
Minimization of "Volgoneft" tanker hull weight and appropriately increasing of her capacity in the river has been achieved due to broad usage of high-strength steel with thickness of 5-7 mm. However, the negative part of this achievement was the significant decrease of vessel operational reserve, notably duration of tanker safe operation without repair.
Design outer shell thickness provided 20-years operation without repair for vessels of "M" class only (notably without marine sailing). "M-PR" class vessels had 10-20 years outer shell reserve; "M-SP" class vessels were able work without repair not more than 5-10 years.
Risk and reliability investigations showed that disasters of "Volgoneft" type tankers occur from hull damages mostly (87.5%); fire and explosion reaches 12.5% only; these figures are very unusual for tankers.
The operational risk becomes absolutely not justified taking into account vessel's significant age.
Any incident can lead to the extremely negative consequences for all water transport branch.

Despite decreasing of the ordered vessels number in the short-term prospect, medium-term prospect (since 2017-2018) is quite clear: construction of new tankers and combined vessels will return to the level of 2012-2013. Anyway, we shall have to build new fleet equivalent to the existing fleet by transport capacity.
Marine Engineering Bureau has prepared such new cargo vessels for RF inland waterways which "expands" narrow places of inland water transport and significantly enhance their own economic results by using new technical decisions, as follows:
• RST12 and RST25 mixed river-sea tankers of "Volga-Don Max" class with an increased river cargo capacity due to reasonable hull weight decreasing and accepting rational sailing region class (RS class notations R2-RSN 4.5, RRR class notation M-SP 4.5).
• RST27 "super fat" mixed river-sea tankers of "Volga-Don Max" class project with highly increased river capacity;
• RSD44 "estuary" river dry cargo vessels of "Volga-Don Max" class with lowered air draught, allowing to pass under the bridges of the Neva River, under the Rostov-on-Don railway bridge without drawing and also through Moscow River;
• RST54 river combined platform tankers based on "super fat" contours of RST27 project; these vessel are intended for transportation of cargo that doesn't suffer from wetting (e.g. gravel, rolled metal, "heavy" containers, cars, etc.) towards one direction and oil products towards back direction;
• tug-barge trains (TBT) that provide significant advantages comparing with "single" vessel if transportation process is organized properly;
• river composite small-draught cargo vessels (working draught 1.40-2.35 m) for Eastern basins that fully use dimensions of Siberian Rivers; they are introduced as tanker variant (RT63 tanker pusher vessel plus ROB21 tanker barge) and also as combined variant (RT63A tanker/dry cargo pusher vessel plus ROB21A tanker/dry cargo barge).
Practically all leading Russian river shipyards are able to take orders for new shipbuilding even for 2015. Therefore shipbuilders are interested for shipyards loading and keeping the achieved production rates (that is impossible without orders). And if we don't build now, in 3-5 years there will be no sufficient shipyards' capacity to replace quickly tankers which will became absolutely old.