Tag Archives: Opinions

We live in a strange world – II

Dr. Sergei Smirnov, expert of Center for maritime transport and spatial logistics

Exactly one year has passed since my first comment on the impact of the new coronavirus infection on human civilization appeared on this site. I have to admit my obvious limitations as an oracle. Like the vast majority of earthlings,

I remembered too well the Hollywood plots when a magic vaccine created by the titanic efforts of WHO and the best scientists beats deadly pandemic, millions of people happily wait for their vaccination and finally, the dawn of a new day rises over the renewed world, which for sure will be better and happier than yesterday.

Reality, however, as usually, turned out to be much more mundane, sad and contradictory. WHO distinguished itself by its helplessness and inconsistency. Until now, they have not been able to even develop a unified methodology for testing and assessing the presence of immunity against COVID-19. By the “titanic” efforts of the pharmaceutical giants, a vaccine appeared, and not single, but a whole dozen. However, the bad virus continues to spread, mutates, masks the symptoms and kills. In general, it behaves like a normal ARVI, a fact that ordinary doctors initially had to clearly understand. Governments, with varying degrees of demonstrated concern (depending on domestic political considerations and the peculiarities of national mentality) continue to tirelessly protect their fellow citizens, gradually depriving them of civil rights and freedoms using high-tech methods. However, all this was quite to be expected.

I suggested that the pandemic would soon fade away, one way or another, and we would all have to face the many traditional and unconventional security threats again. Like the international terrorist organizations taking advantage of the new reality and start practicing bioterror methods. None of this has happened so far.

A year ago, I suggested that the pandemic would soon fade away, one way or another, and we would all have to face the many traditional and unconventional security threats again. Like the international terrorist organizations taking advantage of the new reality and start practicing bioterror methods. None of this has happened so far. With the pandemic, everything is clear; it will stay with us for a long time. The emergence of the AUKUS alliance, strange to the point of irrationality, should not be considered a threat to stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region. It is in no way capable of playing the role of “Asian NATO”, its creators put completely different meanings into AUKUS. The terrorists, represented by the Taliban, seem to have succeeded, seizing power in Afghanistan without a fight in August 2021. However, it was not their merit. It happened only because a new president finally appeared in the White House, who was determined to end the absurd, but extremely expensive 20-year messianic adventure in the Middle East.

The real threat to peace is emerging in the economic sphere, more precisely, in international trade. Its contours and scale is not yet fully understood, but tectonic shifts may arise if we neglect it. I mean the progressive imbalance in the international logistics system caused not by the pandemic as such, but by the “fight” against it.

Honestly, I was mistaken with the security forecasts. Moreover, if one my mistake was with a “plus” sign, then the second – an unambiguous and big “minus”.

The real threat to peace is emerging in the economic sphere, more precisely, in international trade. Its contours and scale is not yet fully understood, but tectonic shifts may arise if we neglect it. I mean the progressive imbalance in the international logistics system caused not by the pandemic as such, but by the “fight” against it.

The crisis in logistics led to a creeping rise in prices for foodstuffs, building materials, metal products, timber, natural gas … it is easier to list what did not rise in price.

A year ago, we noted with satisfaction that maritime transport, which accounts for almost 90% of world trade, has passed the test of the first COVID lockouts with relative excellence. Then the world economy began to gradually recover, this process was very uneven in different countries. Since November 2020, a shortage of container capacities began to appear, the planned delivery time of goods was disrupted, the cost of freight increased, etc. We hoped that these were temporary troubles, that the system would restore the normal rhythm of work, let’s just wait a little bit.

A year has passed, and these problems have only worsened. The crisis in logistics led to a creeping rise in prices for foodstuffs, building materials, metal products, timber, natural gas … it is easier to list what did not rise in price. It is important to understand that the volumes of production and transportation have remained practically unchanged. The most complex system of international logistics, under the influence of managerial decisions of state bodies, could not keep in a state of self-regulating stability. It is only unclear whether the “red line” of destructive no return has been already crossed.

A special responsibility today lies with China. It is no secret that a number of unpredictable unilateral actions by China aimed to protect against the spread of coronavirus infection within the country have caused the major turbulence in the global logistics market.

The globalized economy seems to have learned how to deal with financial crises. Today we are dealing with a threat of a different nature. I am afraid that the patented recipes of economists – Nobel laureates will not help here. It is necessary to admit the fallacy of many management decisions, to coordinate as far as possible the anti-COVID policies of different countries and international organizations, to wait and pray that the mechanisms of the market economy will help to recover once more.

Fairly, I should note that the collective West bears its share of the blame for the current crisis, and a very significant one.

A special responsibility today lies with China. It is no secret that a number of unpredictable unilateral actions by China aimed to protect against the spread of coronavirus infection within the country have caused the major turbulence in the global logistics market. The No. 2 world economy, firmly determined to become the No. 1, and the main “global factory” cannot afford to isolate itself and make serious decisions without calculating their consequences for the development of external relations. You simply cannot obtain the status of a global superpower without taking responsibility for others. The domestic economic situation in China is rather complicated today. An attempt to reorient towards domestic consumer market to the detriment of foreign economic relations is likely to be doomed to failure.

Fairly, I should note that the collective West bears its share of the blame for the current crisis, and a very significant one. By turning on the cash printing machine and generously appeasing its own population, the West does not solve the problem, but removes it from sight, thereby aggravating the situation with the growing imbalance in global logistics. “Industry 4.0”, “green energy” – all this is great. However, we may not live to see this bright future…

THE PENINSULA STANDSTILL: WILL THE PANDEMIC OPEN THE DOOR OUT?

Sergei M. Smirnov, PhD

The process of normalizing the situation on the Korean Peninsula, after the dramatic events of 2018, which gave hope for a quick and decisive success, is now at a standstill. We can hardly see any area where progress nay be achieved, to say nothing about a breakthrough. The COVID-19 pandemic has almost nothing to do with current situation.

Let us consider several factors that contributed to the development of a negative scenario.

The main disappointment, undoubtedly, is the failure of Washington’s “cavalry attack” attempt to resolve “overnight” the sluggish crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

First, this is the selfish policy of the countries that were once participants in the Six-Party talks. This term attributes to all countries without exception. The format of Six-Party talks is not mentioned by chance – formally, this mechanism still exists, career diplomats representing their states continue to imitate activities, calmly waiting for retirement benefits. Political scientists also periodically recall the Six-Party talks, elaborating on the possibility of its transformation into a permanent regional security structure.

The main disappointment, undoubtedly, is the failure of Washington’s “cavalry attack” attempt to resolve “overnight” the sluggish crisis on the Korean Peninsula.  In my opinion, ex-President Trump missed his historic chance when, at the summit in Hanoi, he applied not the wisdom of a true political leader, but the negotiation tactics of a corporate executive. However, Trump is actually a businessperson who had managed to occupy the Oval Office by chance, without going through any of the obligatory stages of public service. It was not worth insisting on the deliberately unacceptable conditions of “complete and unconditional renunciation of the nuclear program”; it was necessary to agree on a formal end to the Korean War and the conclusion of a peace treaty instead.  It was also imperative to involve the most interested party in negotiations with the DPRK – the Republic of Korea. That would practically guarantee Trump the Nobel Peace Prize and a second term in the White House.

The decisive steps of President Biden to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, which his three predecessors dreamed of but did not dare to do, inspire a certain optimism. Let us hope that the Democratic administration will act with the same rationality and pragmatism with regard to the Korean Peninsula. In the 1990s, it was under the Democratic administration of Bill Clinton that the US-North Korean relations moved off the ground and the “Framework agreement” on the DPRK’s nuclear program was concluded. The Republican majority in Congress later thwarted its implementation, but today the initiatives of the Biden administration are much easier to pass through the Capitol Hill.

President Moon Jae-in may have tried too hard to accommodate the unpredictable Donald Trump, and it is likely that the conservative South Korean establishment has successfully sabotaged the president’s attempts to force the process of national reconciliation in Korea.

The Republic of Korea has also not fully realized its chance to move closer to national reconciliation. The powerful impetus of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics with a single team of the two Korean states lasted a little over a year, and after the failure of the Hanoi Summit, RoK’s initiative seems to have dwindled. President Moon Jae-in may have tried too hard to accommodate the unpredictable Donald Trump, and it is likely that the conservative South Korean establishment has successfully sabotaged the president’s attempts to force the process of national reconciliation in Korea. In any case, Moon Jae-in’s tenure at the Blue House is ending, and he failed to do even the minimum necessary – to repeal the National Security Law or even the odious May 24 sanctions.

Beijing is quite happy with the current situation around the DPRK. One can only guess how much the Chinese leadership “contributed” to the slowdown of the 2018-2019 detente processes.

China is pursuing perhaps the most consistent policy towards the Korean Peninsula. Xi Jinping, who positions himself as a tough authoritarian leader, adheres to a strictly pragmatic approach to the DPRK. Beijing did not hesitate to support UN Security Council Resolutions 2270, 2321, 2371, 2375, imposing tough sanctions against North Korea, because they did not harm the Chinese economy, to some extent protected the PRC labor market from North Korean immigrants, and maximized North Korea’s overall dependence upon the PRC.

Beijing is quite happy with the current situation around the DPRK. One can only guess how much the Chinese leadership “contributed” to the slowdown of the 2018-2019 detente processes. In any case, China (Russia as well) defiantly ignored the ‘PyeongChang Spirit’ rallies that took place in South Korea after the Olympics. In the foreseeable future, Beijing will try to maintain a monopoly position on the DPRK’s foreign trade market, maintain stability and order in the North, ensure that no external force is used against Pyongyang and, at the same time, toughly suppress any attempts by the DPRK to diversify its foreign policy. In this regard, one cannot expect the emergence of new radical initiatives on the Korean Peninsula on the part of the PRC.

It seems that Japan is gradually moving towards a “New Isolationism”, which is facilitated by the peculiarities of the national mentality and the development of virtual reality technologies. A good example of this is the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, held in August 2021, with empty stands, closed borders and restrictions on sexual and personal interaction between the participants.

The policy of Japan towards the DPRK may also be called consistent. However, this “consistency” is distinguished by passivity and gradual withdrawal from participation in solving the most pressing regional problems. In fact, after the Koizumi-Kim Jong Il summit in 2002, Tokyo did not put forward a single real initiative to resolve the situation on the Korean Peninsula. It seems that Japan is gradually moving towards a “New Isolationism”, which is facilitated by the peculiarities of the national mentality and the development of virtual reality technologies. A good example of this is the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, held in August 2021, with empty stands, closed borders and restrictions on sexual and personal interaction between the participants.

Russia‘s policy towards the DPRK is very peculiar. On the one hand, Russia had written off almost the entire national debt of the DPRK in 2014 without any real obligations of compensation on the part of Pyongyang. “Russian Railways” paid for most of the project cost to modernize the Rajin – Khasan railway, but since 2015 there has been no noticeable increase in freight traffic along this line. On the other hand, Russia did not use its veto right when voting on UN Security Council resolutions imposing tough economic sanctions against the DPRK. Moreover, the ban on the use of labor force from the DPRK abroad, introduced by these sanctions, is definitely not beneficial to Russia. North Korean construction and agricultural workers covered a significant part of the labor market needs in the Far East of the Russian Federation, and there is no one to replace them.

North-East Asia in the first half of the XXI Century is fundamentally different from Europe at the end of the XX Century, when Germany united and the Warsaw Pact collapsed. For Russia, the emergence of a unified Korean state should be regarded not as a threat, but as favorable opportunity in all respects.

Maybe it is worth agreeing with the opinion of some experts that for Russia, despite its declared ‘Pivot to the East’ policy, the North Korean affairs are considered secondary, and that Moscow has recognized the DPRK as the Chinese sphere of influence. Nevertheless, everything is much more complicated and confusing in this issue. The principle of ‘equidistance’ in relations between Russia and the two Korean states creates a good basis for maintaining the potential for “strategic mediation”. The attitude of the Russian Federation to the problem of the DPRK’s nuclear status seems to be rational and pragmatic. The same pragmatism Russia should apply in other areas, in particular, in the issue of national reunification, the signing of a peace treaty that puts an end to the 1950-1953 Korean War and in bilateral trade with the DPRK. North-East Asia in the first half of the XXI Century is fundamentally different from Europe at the end of the XX Century, when Germany united and the Warsaw Pact collapsed. For Russia, the emergence of a unified Korean state should be regarded not as a threat, but as favorable opportunity in all respects.

DPRK is not behaving very constructively, too. Indeed, there is a unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing and long-range ballistic missile launches, which is undoubtedly good. However, it is impossible to say with certainty whether the reason for the introduction of this moratorium was the desire to demonstrate good will to the world or simply the lack of available technical and financial resources to carry out these very costly activities. We observed an inadequate reaction on the part of Pyongyang in connection with minor incidents near the DMZ, for example, the demonstrative destruction of the inter-Korean communications center in Kaesong in June 2020. Propaganda and tactical considerations clearly prevailed over long-term strategic priorities, because such actions only contribute to the chances of South Korean conservatives (strongly opposed to the DPRK) to come to power next spring. Later, Pyongyang apparently realized that loyal partners in the South were preferable to outright opponents, and agreed to restore a “hot line” of communication between the two countries from July 27, 2021.

Pyongyang used the situation as an opportunity not to return home its citizens who fell under the aforementioned UN Security Council sanctions. However, the continuing complete closure of its borders plays against the DPRK today, making it impossible to develop economic ties and receive financial support from abroad.

Kim Jong-un’s policy regarding the COVID-19 pandemic also looks not very consistent. Some experts assessed the Kim’s decision of February 2020 to completely close the borders of the DPRK in connection with the outbreak of a new coronavirus infection in neighboring China as an act of statesmanship, which is probably highly exaggerated. At that time, there was absolutely no reason to believe that the countries of the world and international organizations would turn out to be so helpless and inadequate in their actions to neutralize the spread of a new viral disease. Rather, Pyongyang used the situation as an opportunity not to return home its citizens who fell under the aforementioned UN Security Council sanctions. However, the continuing complete closure of its borders plays against the DPRK today, making it impossible to develop economic ties and receive financial support from abroad.

Coronavirus pandemic as an external factor

When the thesis about the COVID-19 pandemic as some kind of existential threat to humankind became a dogma almost equal to the Tablets of Moses on Mount Sinai, other problems forcefully faded into the background. However, these problems have not gone away, they are completely real, objective and dangerous.

The role of the COVID-19 pandemic in the current stalemate on the Korean Peninsula can be assessed in different ways. On the one hand, national governments and international organizations have driven themselves into a corner, allowing the situation to unfold along the same inexorable logic that led to the outbreak of World War I more than a century ago. When the thesis about the COVID-19 pandemic as some kind of existential threat to humankind became a dogma almost equal to the Tablets of Moses on Mount Sinai, other problems forcefully faded into the background. However, these problems have not gone away, they are completely real, objective and dangerous. In particular, it is the threat of a full-scale armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula with many millions of potential victims.

North Korea today is highly unlikely to initiate aggression deliberately. It is necessary to understand that fanning the threat of a military attack by North Korea is a method of psychological warfare. Similarly, the DPRK population is being constantly frightened with the threat of “imminent aggression from the United States and their puppets in the South”. Both sides need to abandon the logic and rhetoric of the Cold War.

At the same time, the threat of major armed conflict escalating from possible incidents in the DMZ area remains high. Mutual nervousness arising from the decades-long confrontation along the border is the source of potential dangerous incidents, like the sinking of the ‘Cheonan’ corvette in March 2010.

doubts are growing about the feasibility of the Chinese ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, which gives Beijing too many levers of influence on trans-Eurasian transportation.

On the other hand, the current pandemic situation is forcing us to reevaluate the existing stereotypes and approaches to the development of cross-border economic ties. This mainly refers to the need to diversify global and regional networks of value chains, transport and logistics routes. Otherwise, unilateral restrictions on a certain logistics hub / seaport /border crossing point, introduced even under the most plausible pretext, can lead to the collapse of an entire industry or region. We have seen such negative cases in North-East Asia in 2020-2021 more than once. In this regard, doubts are growing about the feasibility of the Chinese ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, which gives Beijing too many levers of influence on trans-Eurasian transportation. At the same time, the diversification and implementation of spatial network-centric technologies opens a new window of opportunity for normalizing the situation on the Korean Peninsula – through the DPRK’s involvement in the creation of such network structures and new logistics routes. Necessary precondition – this involvement should take place on the basis of equal partnership and mutual responsibility of the parties, without any ideological pressure from outside, but also without blackmail or demands for a special treatment on the part of Pyongyang. Elaborating on the idea of ​​network-centric spatial development in North-East Asia, it may be worth considering specific options for involving third countries in inter-Korean reconciliation. Here, a variety of combinations of interaction in the economy, diplomacy, and humanitarian ties are possible. It is likely that it will be effective to stimulate the involvement of countries that have made the transition from a socialist model to a market economy. For example, of Mongolia, which is directly interested in the development of transport and logistics cooperation with the DPRK. The convincing victory of U. Khurelsukh in the June 2021 presidential elections in Mongolia inspires optimism in this regard: two years ago, as Prime Minister, he sought to actively contribute to the peace processes on the Korean Peninsula.

The Dock for Icebreakers Is Sailing Away from the Chinese

June 1, 2021

For more than a year “RosAtomflot” has been trying to find a contractor for the construction of a floating dock, which is necessary for dock repairs of Russian nuclear icebreakers, including the new project 22220 ‘Arktika’ class, and nuclear support & maintenance vessels.

The replayed tender for the construction of a floating dock for nuclear icebreakers again ended with the recognition of only one bid – Turkish “Kyzey Star Shipyard”. The other two applications were rejected, including from China’s “Jiangsu Dajin Heavy Industry Co. LTD”, which last time filed a complaint with the Federal Antimonopoly Service of Russia (FAS). The Commission acknowledged that the Chinese shipyard “had not yet duly confirmed its experience and the availability of the necessary capacities and human resources”. Lawyers explain that now participants whose applications were rejected have five days to appeal, otherwise a contract with a single supplier could be concluded in June.

For the second time, Turkish “Kyzey Star Shipyard “ remained the only admitted applicant in the tender for the construction of a floating dock for almost 5 billion rubles. As follows from the minutes of the meeting of the Selection Commission, the tender was declared invalid. It was planned to sign a contract with “Kyzey Star Shipyard” in April. However, one of the applicants, the Chinese shipyard “Jiangsu Dajin” filed a complaint which FAS recognized as legal. As a result, “RosAtomflot” had to resume the tender and extend the collection of applications.

The dock must be built within 29 months from the date of signing the contract.    The project expenses will be fully covered by “RosAtomflot” itself.     Dock will have a length not less than 220 m, width – about 48 m, pontoon height – about 6 m, carrying capacity – about 30 thousand tons.    The maximum contract price, including zero VAT, is RUB 4.983 billion (appr. US$ 78 millions).

Russian shipyards, including the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC), did not apply for the tender. Sources of “Kommersant” in shipbuilding noted that Russian enterprises estimated the project price 1,5-2 times higher, explaining this by high overhead costs, the lack of a ready design project, high saturation and high metal consumption. In addition, there remained the problem of free capacities, ready to quickly and cheaply build a dock with a length of more than 200 m.

Initially, three applications were submitted for the competition – “Kyzey”, which offered a price of 4.981 billion rubles, the Turkish “Epic Denizcilik ve Gemi Insaat A.S.”, whose bid was 4.45 billion rubles, and “Jiangsu Dajin” for 4.57 billion rubles. “Kyzey” was considered as the main contender for this order. The shipyard is currently completing two LNG-fueled ferries for the Ust-Luga-Baltiysk line.

Following the processing of applications, “Epic Denizcilik” was excluded from tender. Two other bids were returned to “Kyzey” and “Jiangsu Dajin” for clarification. Later, “Jiangsu Dajin” was again denied participation following the re-examination of applications. The Commission refers to the inconsistency of the company’s application with procurement documents related to the confirmation of contracts for ship construction completed in 2018-2021, drawn up in accordance with accounting rules.

Industry sources feared that the need for a new survey of all participants and a complaint to the FAS would lead to a delay in construction. Mr. Vyacheslav Ruksha, deputy head of “Rosatom” and head of the Northern Sea Route Directorate, in an interview with “Kommersant” on December 15, 2020, said that a new dock was needed “exactly by the fall of 2024”.

According to Russian legislature, if several bids submitted for participation in the procurement, but only one admitted to participate, the procurement is declared invalid, but the law allows the possibility of concluding a contract “with a single supplier”.

Source: https://portnews.ru/digest/22471/

Commentary.Situation seems to be a little strange. Obviously, the floating dock is badly needed for servicing nuclear-powered icebreakers, which are the core of Northern Sea Route year-round operations declared as top priority strategic goal for Russia. However, the contract price seems to be inadequately low for serious contenders to join the project. The Turkish company is clearly being pushed forward even if it does not have experience related to nuclear industry (the new dock must have very specific and sensitive equipment to deal with radiation, etc.). There may even be speculations on possible political reasons for this, that Turkey today is a more valuable ally for Russia than China. Sure, it is highly unlikely. Even so, the hidden motives and the conflict of business interests around this controversial deal may impede the progress of Russian Arctic strategy…

We live in a strange world…

…I am no longer surprised at the absurdity of the reality around us.

Dr. Sergei Smirnov, expert of Center for maritime transport and spatial logistics

The “holy war” against the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the “titanic” efforts of the governments is clearly loosing in favor of the pernicious coronavirus. The side effects of this “war” – the restriction of individual freedoms and rights, the collapse of the economy, the closure of borders, the growth of mistrust and suspicion between people and nations – are two orders of magnitude higher than the damage from the disease itself.

But ultimately, sooner or later human race will come out of the coronavirus deadlock where it has driven itself, spinning the flywheel of information hysteria. And then the realization will come that the old security threats have not disappeared. Moreover, they will be more difficult to address given the aforementioned side effects of the 2020 Pandemic.

Last weekend, the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force after it was ratified by 50 UN member states. This is an event of a historical scale. But it passed almost unnoticed against the background of reports from the fronts of the “War on Coronavirus”. Skeptics will say something like “what kind of ban on nuclear weapons can we seriously talk about? The nuclear powers will never give it up!”. Sure, they will be right. But this righteousness contributes to the preservation and even strengthening of the existential threat to the survival of mankind.

I want to focus on two aspects.

First, we see a steady erosion of the international strategic arms control system. Following the ABMD, INF, ‘Clear Sky’ treaties, the key START-III agreement expires soon. If Donald Trump wins the presidential election on November 3, there will be little chance of extending START process. As a result, the activities for limiting and reducing strategic offensive arms, which for 45 years have ensured stability and relative security in the world, will be interrupted.

Unfortunately, this applies not only to a rather formal-bureaucratic negotiation process on arms limitation. On October 14, Washington hosted a regular scheduled meeting of the Defense Secretaries of the United States and the Republic of Korea. Observers noted that for the first time in the past 12 years the phrase that the United States intends to maintain a certain level of military presence in the Republic of Korea has disappeared from the final communiqué of the meeting. The traditional press conference of the two ministers was also canceled. It is known that President Trump seeks to shift the burden of maintaining the forward bases and contingents of the US Armed Forces onto the American allies, as well as to force them to fight in the conflict regions of the world instead of the Americans, or at least pay for these military adventures. “Nothing personal, it’s just about the money”. But such pragmatism tactically can provide additional votes, but in a strategic perspective it can lead to disaster.

Let’s think about how the situation in Northeast Asia will develop if the US curtailed its military presence here. It is highly doubtful that Japan and the Republic of Korea surrounded by “2,5” nuclear powers, will continue to rely on the abstract US nuclear umbrella. With a certain degree of cynicism, it can be argued that the bases and contingents of the US Armed Forces in Japan, South Korea, and even in Europe are needed not so much as a military force, but as hostages in case of a major war. No American president would dare to abandon military intervention in a conflict where the lives of US military personnel who are there with the approval of Congress are threatened. But if they are not there, then the outcome may well be limited to statements of “Atlantic” or, say, “Pacific” solidarity, without concrete actions – why risk the lives of Americans in an “alien” war?

If the negative scenario prevails will Japan and the Republic of Korea resist the temptation to create their own nuclear deterrent assets? Given the huge stocks of plutonium in Japan and the well-known nuclear arms program in Korea, closed (?) more than 30 years ago, such a potential can be created in a matter of months…

Of course, this is a very abstract scenario. But not impossible, unfortunately.

Secondly, the ease and speed of the spread of COVID-19 around the world, as well as the obvious helplessness of the official authorities in the fight against the pandemic, make us think about the threat of bioterrorism in a new way. After all, if a primitive and not particularly lethal coronavirus has caused such shocks, what will happen if a really serious product of genetic engineering appears? Technically and technologically it is quite possible to do this, both covertly and quickly. And we are talking about terrorism. States have long and quite pragmatically abandoned biological weapons, since its military use could have led to uncontrollable consequences, including for their own citizens. But for terrorists such a weapon is just the right choice…

I could specify a number of other potential security threats that we may face literally the day after the “final victory” over the coronavirus. But for now, the above mentioned is probably enough. The team of authors and editors of the Asia-Pacific Journal of Marine Science & Education, which has developed over nine years, prefers publications on the “direct” profile of the Journal. But we also cannot ignore “external” problems. It is difficult to analyze and plan the development processes of the maritime industry and international professional education without taking into account everything that is happening around and directly affects the industry and the region. Perhaps there will be a thematic issue of our magazine in 2021 devoted to the impact of the pandemic on the industry and ways to overcome the crisis in the regional economy. But, our main desire is to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Journal in conditions when the economy is working, the borders are open and people are not afraid to meet and conduct a dialogue with each other.

The first Russian LNG-fueled rail ferry ‘Marshal Rokossovsky’ launched

The CNF19M Class Marshal Rokossovsky railway ferry designed by ‘Marine Engineering Bureau’ was launched at the Kuzey Star shipyard (Turkey). “Rosmorport” FSUE which is the customer and operator of the vessel ordered her with the Arctic category ARC4 option for year-round operation on the Ust-Luga – Baltiysk line without an icebreaker escort.

The ferry Marshal Rokossovsky has a dual-fuel system and is intended to replace the fairly old Baltiysk and Ambal ferries (CNF05 Class), which are now operating on the line. The main fuels for the new ferry are liquefied natural gas (LNG) and diesel.

The vessel is designed to transport Russian standard gauge railroad train cars as well as other rolling cargo, including dangerous goods, and up to thirty 20-foot refrigerated containers.

“This is the largest vessel in terms of its dimensions built in Turkish shipyards,” explained Gennady Yegorov, ‘Marine Engineering Bureau’ Director General.

The commissioning of these ferries will make it possible to renew the fleet occupied at the crossing, which is important for the country, said Vasily Strugov, ‘Rosmorport’ Deputy Director General for Fleet during the launching ceremony. “The commissioning of new ferries will make it possible to substantially renew the fleet assets employed at this strategically important shipping line, reorient part of the cargo traffic currently going to and from the Kaliningrad region via the territory of neighboring countries, and also ensure the transportation of goods in the volumes required for domestic consumption”. “It is remarkable that we are becoming pioneers. There are no such “green” ferries – operating on both low-sulfur diesel fuel and LNG – in Russia today. The use of environmentally friendly fuels will reduce emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by 20-30%, nitrogen oxides – over 90%, sulfur and soot oxides – by 100% compared to similar ships using traditional heavy fuel. This is our contribution to the preservation of the ecology, to the creation of a favorable environment for future generations,” added Mr. Strugov.

Marshal Rokossovsky (building No. 191) is the lead ferry in a series of two vessels of the CNF19M Class. She was laid down on October 17, 2018, launched on August 21, 2020. The handover to the customer may take place in the spring of 2021. The second ferry General Chernyakhovsky (building number 192), laid down on April 23, 2019, is also being built in cooperation with the Nevsky Shipyard and the Kuzey Star.

As previously reported, there is only one ship owner in Russia, PJSC ‘Sovcomflot’, already successfully using and ordering new LNG-fueled cargo ships (a series of “green” AFRAMAXes).

The actual construction of LNG vessels for other operators has been slow. So, the first LNG-fueled river passenger vessel “Chaika” (Seagull) was launched at JSC ‘Zelenodolsk Plant named after A.M. Gorky’ on August 7, 2020,. This tourist vessel is 58.8 m long, 10.8 m wide and has a passenger capacity of up to 176. Marshal Rokossovsky became the first Russian ferry capable operate on LNG.

The concept, technical design and design documentation of the CNF19M Class ships were developed by the ‘Marine Engineering Bureau’, which since 2014 has been conducting research on the concept of a cargo ferry for the Ust-LugaBaltiysk line.

“Optimization of the hull contours and subsequent numerical simulation of tests in the pool made it possible to significantly improve the hull shape and reduce fuel consumption, including through a rational approach to the choice of speed and line organization,” the Marine Engineering Bureau noted. “At the same time, the ferry, unlike the previously proposed concepts, is purely cargo vessel without the function of transporting passengers.

Considering that the passenger transportation on the Ust-LugaBaltiysk line is subsidized, and passenger requirements significantly affect the general structure of the vessel, speed and power plant (significantly reduce the carriage capacity and increase the cost of freight traffic), the customer’s decision to make the new ferry purely cargo are supposed to make this ship class operationally profitable”.

As a result, a 200-meter road-rail LNG-fueled ferry of ice category Arc4 was built, which has a closed cargo deck for cars and an open upper deck for auto trailers and cars, a forward location of a residential superstructure and a stern engine room, with a twin-screw propulsion unit, a stern thruster, and two bow thrusters, with the placement of gas tanks in the hold in the middle part at a safe distance from both the superstructure and the engine room, with a double bottom and double sides, with the possibility of bunkering gas simultaneously from four road trains using a ship booster module, as well as from a bunkering vessel and from an onshore LNG bunker base.

The upper deck (superstructure roof) is designed for the transportation of cargo trailers. Wheeled vehicles are loaded onto the main deck both from the bridges of the ferry terminals and from removable coastal Ro-Ro bridges. Wheeled vehicles are elevated to the upper deck from the main deck through an internal ramp.

Vessel characteristics:

РС КМ class: Arc4 AUT1-ICS OMBO ECO GFS Ro-ro ship

L/W: 199,9 m/ 27,4 m

Deadweight 11057 t

Main engines: 2 x 6000 kWt

Cruise speed: 16,5 knots

Crew / passengers: 24 / 12

Cargo capacity: 36 – 80 railway cars or 58 road trains (main deck); 40 trailers (upper deck) Endurance (fuel): 10 days

Expert comments: It is a very good idea to use LNG as the main fuel for sea ferries with its specific operational cycle. Unfortunately, this concept was missed when ordering new railway ferries for the Vanino – Kholmsk line. But, Sakhalin Island with its gas fields and a modern LNG production complex, in all respects is ideally suited for the gasification of the transport industry in the Russian Far East.