Recently at Lotus shipyard, Astrakhan, part of ASC (United Shipbuilding Company) the keel was laid for the 1st Russian passenger cruise ship in decades. Support for the new class of even vessel is coming from Russian Federation president Vladimir Putin, who expressed hope that this will be the first but not the last of a series of such ships.
“I have no doubt that this series will be in demand… in this case passenger carriers… and will serve as a real revival of passenger transportation along the rivers and development of domestic and inbound tourism”, said Putin.
The engineers of the Marine Engineering Bureau office developed the Concept PV300VD ship, the first of which should be completed within three years. The project belongs to the Saint Petersburg team of Marine Engineering Bureau SPb, which has been working in Russia for 16 years. Their other branch is in Odessa. Such ships were not generally built in the old Soviet Union.
The last built in the USSR, two river cruise ships, the Soviet Union and the Lenin, were built at the Gorky plant in 1959-60. Then, as with its ocean ships, the Soviet Union bought foreign-built river cruise ships, until about 1989-1990.
However, they were not entirely foreign as they were built to Soviet order and developed specifically for operation by Russia in Russian conditions. These vessels were were mainly built in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Austria.
After 1990, Russia river cruise ships were no longer built and the business was carried on for many years utilising old tonnage. The same happened with the old Russian passenger fleet after they were banned in North America after Russia invaded Afghanistan.
Shipping conditions in Russia are now different. The new ships will be “river-sea” ships. This class of vessel is needed in order to be navigate large lakes. Russian river cruise ships are also much more powerful than typical Rhine and Danube vessels. Dimensions for the 310-passenger ships will be 463 x 55 feet.
The PV300VD concept was developed in 2010-2015 by order of the Russian Federal Marine Agency for river transport. The state customer and coordinator of the program is the Minister of Industry and Trade, and completion scheduled is for 2019. The cost of a ship varies according to estimates between 2.5 to 3.5 billion rubles and the payback period is 5 to 20 years. Three such vessels are foreseen at the stage, although more could follow.
The routes foreseen for these vessels are in season (May to October) between Moscow and St Petersburg, then taking tourists from Moscow to Samara and Rostov-on-Don, and in the winter embarking in the Eastern Med and possibly the Red Sea: for example, Rostov-on-Don – Yalta – Odessa – Istanbul – Alexandria.
There is also talk about navigation in the Crimea, in Sevastopol, and also in Sochi, on more interesting tourist routes on the Caspian sea.
The new ships could carry about 450-500,000 passengers annually, of which about 100,000 would be foreign tourists. The number of foreigners declined by almost half in 2014 as western tour operators cut their Russian programmes and westerners stayed away.
Buyers of the new ship would be operators such as Mosturflot (the GK Sea and River shipping company), Vodohod and Orthodox, said the Ministry of Industry and trade. Given the high cost of these ships, it is planned to lease them to the operators.
The main difference of this four-deck ship is that it will be able to navigate seas as well as rivers, whereas now there are only river boats. The vessels will also be much more luxurious than past ships and will include such western amenities as French balconies and large suites.
At the next link you can see the CruiseMapper's list of all new cruise ships.