The number of sea-going ships constructed and used in Russia is continuing to fall. As a Rosbalt correspondent reports, this was announced by Victor Yuriev, deputy head of the shipping department of the Russian Transport Ministry. He said that if this continues there may no longer be any Russian sea-going ships left in 14 years from now.
Russian ships began to be withdrawn from service in 1992. However, in 1992 foreign ships only accounted for 18.4% of the Russian fleet while this figure has now risen to 58%. The total tonnage of Russian ships used by the Russian fleet has therefore dropped from 10.6 million tonnes in 1992 to just 3 million tonnes at the start of 2003. Of 189 ships built for the Russian fleet in the 1992-2002 period, 90% were made by foreign companies.
According to Mr Yuriev, Russian shipping companies are having financial difficulties trying to compete on the international market. One of the reasons for this are the high taxes that must be paid for transportation. This is preventing Russian companies from building new ships. Another reason is the poorly developed banking system in Russia, Mr Yuriev said. 'Russian banks only give three-year high-interest loans on ship building and so Russian companies are forced to take loans from foreign banks,' he said. Also, Russian companies have to pay a tax which amounts to 25% of the total construction cost when they register the ships in Russia.