Who will own the nuclear cruiser ''Admiral Ushakov''?

The idea of this paper has appeared during the international conference concerning the destiny of the nuclear-powered cruiser "Admiral Ushakov" which took place in Severodvinsk this year.

Among the participants there were both representatives of the countries, assisting Russia in ecological programs, and the local experts. The problem has appeared long time ago. Decommissioned cruiser moored at the shipyard «Zvezdochka» (Severodvinsk) is rusting for years, her systems and gears are in a complete decay, the buoyancy is decreasing and all this sounds quite naturally in recent Russia. No funds for cruisers utilisation!

Russians look with hope to the West, already helping to scrap the old nuclear submarines. The West is well motivated. Ecology problems are common. In case of nuclear accident with obsolete weapons not only Russians will be losers. But scrapping of such enormous ship like nuclear-powered cruiser is many expensive and complicated tasks than submarine utilisation. Who can boast by experience of this kind?

Nowadays at least 25 combat surface ships (Russia, USA, France) and 12 civil vessels with nuclear propulsion (Russia, USA, Japan, and Germany) were built. According the Ship/Submarine Recycling Program (SRP) 3 nuclear cruisers were scrapped in USA. In Russia two nuclear surface ships have been decommissioned for scrap: heavy missile cruiser «Admiral Ushakov» (Balcom-1 class) and communications ship «Ural» (Kapusta -class).

According the Concepts of the complex utilisation of nuclear propelled ships: «The wide scale, duration and complexity of this process, safety and ecological problems make this task the national priority of Russia". But because of traditional lack of financing Russia searches money from outside. Meanwhile Russian (and not only Russian) businessmen recall the successful experience of commercial use of the ex-Soviet aircraft carriers sold in 1990-ies. As «PRAVDA.Ru» already reported, not so old «monsters» nowadays are engaged on public entertainment and bring sufficient incomes to the owners.

The history of the scandalous sale of military technique to South Koreans took place in 1994-1997. Russian Ministry of Defence bargained it with Young Distribution Co for scrap as ferrous metals. The "Minsk" carrier was sold for $ 4,5 mln and the «Novorossisk» - for $ 4,3 millions. It means for nothing. According experts estimate only non-ferrous metals aboard these had approximate cost of $ 14 millions.

In 1997 «Minsk» was resold to China as it was said for scrap. But the new owners after symbolical refit have made a national entertaining centre, popular and extremely profitable. Today "Minsk" stands in the Pearl River Harbour in the Chinese City of Shenghin. «World» of "Minsk" attracts 6 000 tourists every day providing daily profit exceeding $ 200 000.

The first Soviet carrier «Kiev» in spite of the contract limitations was also converted into entertaining centre. From September 2003 she 'works' in the big tourist centre of China - Tantzin (120 km to the East from Benjing). The total investments of $604 were easily assigned by the local authorities declared this project to be the one of the main economical priorities. As it was just said to the "PRAVDA.Ru" reporter by one important figure from the Ministry of Defence - the possibility of selling the decommissioned nuclear cruiser to any interested persons either Russian or foreign is not excluded. Admiral who prefers to keep incognito said also that no restrictions for future use would be mentioned in the contract. Dwelling upon the Chinese experience former nuclear cruiser should be used for any entertaining purpose. It will cause much less expenses than scrapping.

The main thing is necessary to carry on - discharge the active zone (Severodvinsk is the best place for this task) and to clean the oil tanks. All other technical problems like bouyancy providing, safe towing and refit could be quite easily resolved, the Pravda.Ru reported.

Relatively small investments could transfer a huge combat ship with enormous space to the great floating hotel, casino or the Cold war museum if necessary. In any case it promises to be profitable. If somebody will moor it on the river Thames as a hotel for the coming London Olympiad, Mr Abramovitz will take a rest with his «Chalsea» team…

Who will buy the «Admiral Ushakov» at last? If it would be some Russian patriot thinking about national pride who will keep her at home as a historical artefact it is much better. To many particles of the national glory have already dispersed forever! The pitiful process should be stopped! I think so…

Vitaly Bratkov

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Author`s name Editorial Team