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A window of opportunites

Alexei RAKHMANOV
USC President

Historically we have got toughened working under conditions of various external restrictions and non-competitive practices. Therefore, the pandemic was not a knockdown blow for us, but has become a yet another adverse but quite surmountable circumstance 

Half a year ago news agencies published a message on the discovery of a new virus type in Wuhan, China. At that time no one but few experts paid any special attention to that news. A few months later the pandemic ripped round the planet, while billions of people found themselves locked down for quarantine.

The world that has only recently seemed to be open and irreversibly globalized, apparently turned back the hands of time by several decades. The virus hit the global economy already impaired by countless trade wars; it immediately destroyed logistic chains and interrupted the flow of commerce. Against the background of the falling demand, the keen struggle for international sales markets has recommenced. The passenger cruise sector is practically frozen due to sanitary restrictions, while many cruise line passengers by circumstance became first hostages of the epidemic. What do these changes mean for Russian shipbuilders? How should the industry react to them and what actions should be taken? Generally speaking, the answer is simple: shipbuilders should continue doing their work to a high standard of quality and continuously follow the course chosen, however with an eye to the new reality.   

On the one hand, thorough planning allows us to assess risks in advance and live up to our commitments. On the other hand, the Russian shipbuilding industry has appeared to be better prepared to the crisis by force of external circumstances, established specialization in the production of high-technology vessels, global demand for which is continuously growing.  On top of that, we have got historically toughened by working under conditions of various external restrictions and non-competitive practices. Therefore, the pandemic was not a knockdown blow for us, but has become a yet another adverse but quite surmountable circumstance. 

Besides, it is exactly now that the world has taken an unwilling time-out, an unprecedented window of opportunities has opened before us. It was mentioned by the Head of our state when he urged to make use of the current situation in order to expedite the cargo traffic towards Russian seaports and reminded of establishing a special economic zone and an advanced transport hub at the Caspian Sea. Under current circumstances, the issue of transportation and economic balance has come to the fore once again. I believe that it is exactly the inland water transport can provide the necessary rate of cargo turnover if the latter is redirected towards rivers.

We fully understand: however difficult the current crisis may appear, it is absolutely evident that it will be overcome. World trade will turn for recovery, and it will require commercial fleet for that, as most cargoes on the planet are transported by sea, as ever. Therefore, leadership in the World Ocean will remain a most important aspect of global economy and politics, as well as traditional competition grounds of the leading states. Even now attempts are made to appoint a guilty party for the world pandemic. This practice is well known to us: by making use of the whole might of the propaganda machine, a competitor is appointed guilty for all one’s problems, and then sanctions are introduced. In exactly the same way, following the latest “fashion”, environmental agenda is used to undercut the position of our country. Under the umbrella of combating with the climate change, attempts are made to restrain the development of polar territories by our country; a boycott of the development of the Northern Sea Route is exercised under the pretext of “uninvestigated influence of maritime traffic on Arctic ecosystems”.   

The best response to such pressure is preparedness to hold an open dialogue and persist our point in a well-argued manner based on scientific facts and professional expertise. It is exactly with this end that the United Shipbuilding Corporation holds discussions within the framework of the St. Petersburg Economic Forum on investigation and exploration of the World Ocean and living marine resources. By established tradition, we have published a special issue of our corporate magazine to commemorate that event. Although this year, due to objective reasons, the Forum was not held, we have reserved the name The World Ocean for this issue. Marine environment that has become the birthplace of life on our planet requires thorough continuous study and makes us, shipbuilders, search for new technological solutions and, together with scientists, treat its fragile ecosystem with due care and responsibility. The marine environment contains not only colossal deposits of exploitable minerals and energy resources, but also millions of biological species, investigation of which can be a breakthrough for healthcare, may result in discovery of new pharmaceutical products to cure illnesses that hit the mankind. 

All together, like one big family, for the benefit of Russia, we will keep on effectively solving the tasks set in front of us 

Indeed, when news on epidemiologic situation started to resemble status reports from the battlefield, issues of environment and careful exploration of seas and oceans were downgraded on the list of priorities. However, they have not lost their relevancy. After all, as early as in January, experts of the World Economic Forum issued a report on global risks for the mankind: nine of the ten major challenges were connected with ecology and change of climate. Issues of planet conservation are urgent as never before. Ignoring these issues means devoting ourselves to failure in the battle in which we confirm our status of a great sea nation: the status that has defined Russia’s leading role on the international stage since Peter the Great time. In the long run, the country with over 37 thousand-kilometer-long borderline has just no other choice: we have to be the power in the World Ocean that cannot be ignored. 

Russian shipbuilders diligently work toward this goal, creating unique icebreakers and floating nuclear power stations, up-to-date research and cruise vessels, fishing ships, powerful above water craft and discreet submarines. Many designs by our engineers still have no world analogues and are way ahead of their time. We have come just to the edge of mass adoption of composite materials, practical use of additive printing. One should not forget innovative solutions in the area of stand-alone power generation on the float, mastered technologies of building offshore platforms and unmanned vessels. Quite literally, these innovations open a new era in the Russian shipbuilding. Demonstrating our adherence to this course, we have declared this year in our corporation the Year of offshore technologies. A symbolic triumph of the national school of engineering was the world first successful diving of a fully stand-alone craft down to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. On May 9, on an anniversary of the Victory in the World War II, the deep submergence vehicle Vityaz engineered by the Central Design Bureau Rubin reached the depth of over 10 kilometers. 

On the eve of our holiday, the Shipbuilder Day, I feel optimistic about our future and I am confident that Russian shipbuilders can cope with any assignments. Whatever crises shake the world, we have someone to keep up with and to learn staunchness from. 75 years ago, our fathers and grandfathers, at great cost of hardships and sacrifices, stopped the progressing of Nazism across the planet and terminated the bloodiest war in the world history. Sparing no effort, day by day they expedited the Victory both in the battlefields where many shipyard workers and engineers were fighting, and in the shipyards where they were building new ships and repairing the ones damaged in combat, and also in design bureaus where they were developing new solutions able to overcome enemy’s machinery. I am confident that shipbuilders of the United Shipbuilding Corporation will prove themselves worthy successors of the generation of winners of the war. All together, like one big family, for the benefit of Russia, we will keep on effectively solving the tasks set in front of us. 

Dear colleagues! From the bottom of my heart I congratulate you with your professional holiday, the Shipbuilder Day! Thank you for your efforts, dedication and determination. There are new challenges ahead of us, but also new success and achievements. Let me wish all of you and your families good health and prosperity!  


A window of opportunites
A window of opportunites