The Russian government plans to create conditions for the renewal of the domestic fishing fleet in coming years with a further increase in domestic catches, according to recent statements by representatives of senior state officials, reports Eugene Gerden.
Russia’s catches have significantly increased to exceed 5 million tonnes while government plans are to pave the way for still further growth, although implementation of these plans will primarily depend on the presence of a large-scale fishing fleet.
Despite efforts in recent years, the Russian industry still has a shortage modern tonnage, as confirmed in statistics presented by Vladimir Kashin, chairman of the State Duma Committee on Agrarian Issues, showing a 25% fleet decline 2000-2018.
According to his findings, at present the Russian fishing fleet consists of only 1500 vessels (compared to 7000 during the Soviet era), the bulk of which (71%) is concentrated in the Far Eastern region. Crucially, only 1% of existing tonnage has been built within the last five years, while the rest is over 25 years old.
Data from the Russian Federal Agency for Fisheries, responsible for the development of the seafood sector in Russia, suggests that the average age of Russian fishing vessels now exceeds 30 years, while some vessels have forty years of operation behind them. This is seen as contributing to an increase in the industry’s accident rate.
According to the Agency’s figures, between the end of the Soviet era and 2019, there were virtually no large-scale investments in new large trawlers in Russia, while most fishing companies preferred to purchase used vessels in abroad.
According to Eduard Klimov, Chairman of Fishnews, one of Russia’s leading fisheries analysis agencies, so far, even with payments of customs duties, it has turned out cheaper to build abroad and import new capacity than to build at domestic yards.
This could change, as numerous orders have recently been placed with domestic shipbuilders for large vessels.
One such company working on renewing its fleet is Far East operator Russian Fishery Company, currently building eleven 108 metre factory vessels as part of its RUB100 billion ($1.35 billion) investment programme.
The first of these, lead vessel Vladimir Limanov built at Tersan in Turkey, has recently been delivered, while the remaining ten sister vessels are being built at the Admiralty Shipyard in St Petersburg.
RFC chairman Gleb Frank commented that such a construction programme has only become possible due to the government’s investment quotas initiative, which requires new vessels benefitting from the scheme to be built at Russian yards.
Vladimir Limanov and its sister vessels are each built to handle 60,000 tonnes of raw material annually, with 100% of catches utilised in producing fillets, mince, a variety of by-products, fishmeal and fish oil, and surimi.
“We will significantly increase production of fillets frozen at sea and we will be the first in Russia to start producing high quality pollock surimi,” he said.
“I am confident that this product will be in demand on many markets, including Japan, the USA, Europe, China, south-east Asia and, of course, Russia.”
The new RFC fishing vessels are designed to be environmentally friendly and provide the most economical levels of energy efficiency, reducing CO2 emissions per tonne of catch by 50% compared the company’s older vessels, the first of which has already been decommissioned.
Orders for more than 90 fishing vessels are estimated to have been placed with Russian shipyards. The majority of these will be commissioned by 2025, while the overall investments in their construction are believed to be in the region of 200 billion rubles. But according to local analysts, even this construction effort will ensure the renewal of only around 40% of the Russian fishing fleet.