315 years in service of the Fatherland

315 years in service of the Fatherland

Renata Zelenskaya
correspondent, Admiralteets corporate newspaper

Admiralty Shipyards in St. Petersburg is not just the city’s ‘younger brother’. Without the shipyards the city on the Neva would have never become, what its founder, Peter the Great, had in his mind for it – the capital of the empire. Without ships and vessels floated out from Admiralty Shipyards Russia would have not emerged a naval power

History is objective, it is its coverage and interpretations are subjective. But since facts are rather stubborn, here is an entry in the Log of Peter I’s Tours made by the royal member himself, “…1704, November. On the fifth day we laid down the Admiralty building, stretching 200 fathoms long and 100 fathoms across, went to Osteria and had fun there.” It is that day and 426.7x213.4m construction site on the left bank of the Neva that kicked off the history of St. Petersburg’s first industrial facility, the most adored brainchild of Peter the Great, who owes it to the Admiralty Shipyard that his dream came true – Russian ships and vessels got free access to the sea.

Galleys, cruisers and secret vessels

The first six years of its life the shipyard constructed small vessels, e.g. shnyavas, galleys, brigantines, etc. December 1709 witnessed the laying down of a battleship based on a royal drawing, the Poltava carrying 54 guns. The floating out of the first Russian ship suitable for blue-water navigation in 1712 marked a milestone in the development of the Russian Navy. One does not need a time machine to fathom the endeavor and its results. A trip to Lakhta’s historical shipyard will do, since an effort has been apace in the village for several years already to build a replica of the Poltava, based on the engineering and technological approaches in shipbuilding adopted 300 years ago. July 2019 became particularly memorable in the life of the modern twin sister-ship. No sooner did the Poltava moored at the English Quay in St. Petersburg as she set sails to join the parade on July 28, celebrating the Day of the Russian Navy.

In July 2018, the armored cruiser Dmitry Donskoy was located on the seabed. It landed a true sensation, covered by leading mass media agencies. The ship owes her fame not only to the fact, that she allegedly carried gold for the Pacific Squadron during the Russo-Japanese War. What matters for us, shipbuilders, is that she was laid down in May 1881 at New Admiralty Shipyard, whose full-fledged successor is today’s Admiralty Shipyards.

It is here as well that the Aurora cruiser was laid down six years later to take part in the Tsushima battle of the Russo-Japanese War, Great War, Civil War and ultimately the Great Patriotic War. It does not make much sense to speak at length about the meaning of her blank shot in October 1917. It changed the course of Russia’s history for years to come... The renovated exposition of the museum ship, returned from her overhaul to her permanent mooring site at the crossing of the Petrogradskaya and Petrovskaya embankments, welcomes everyone, who wants to reminisce, fathom the present and think about the future.

Since their inception, the shipyards constructed 3,000 ships and vessels of various classes and categories. Among them are 400-plus submarines and deep-diving craft. Everything began with the secret vessel, proposed by a peasant, Yefim Nikonov, who demonstrated the invention to Peter I as the protracted Northern War drew to its end. However, 300 years ago, good fortune was not kind to the inventor. The vessel was floated off three times, with every attempt to submerge resulting in her sustaining various damages. The recognition came far later: secret vessels – modern submarines – are a major specialization of Admiralty Shipyards today. Besides them, shipbuilders constructed at the facility 70 deep-diving craft and submersible vehicles. Today the enterprise, Russia’s conventional shipbuilding center, account for 1 percent of St. Petersburg’s gross product.

Admiralty Shipyards has always been in for projects outside of its main line of business, having a hand in shaping a special image of the city. It is here that scores of items were produced for various city sites, including cast-iron and metal suspension components for multiple bridges, e.g. the Bridge of Four Lions, Bank Bridge, Egyptian Bridge. All of them are still hallmarks of the city. Other places bearing the enterprise’s footprint are St. Isaac’s Cathedral, Alexander Column, as well as bleachers for public events in Palace Square.

Engineers, experts and men of Admiralty Shipyards created ships in various years, which became benchmarks in the Russian Navy. Among them is the 18-gun pram Gangut, the first Russian battleship, constructed at the shipyard. Russia has always been known as a pioneer in shipbuilding. Attesting to this are the first-ever steamer Elizaveta, armored floating battery Do Not Touch Me, the first sea-going torpedo boat Vzryv (Russian for explosion), the first Russian all-metal, armored deck corvette-class cruiser Vityaz, which became the prototype of the squadron battleship Petr Veliky (Russian for Peter the Great) and others.

The Soviet era marked some remarkable breakthroughs as well, including the first-ever icebreaker Lenin, handed over to the Soviet Ministry of the Navy in December 1959, and the largest in the world fish-processing ship Vostok, constructed in 1971. Our readers will remember that during the Great Patriotic War Admiralty Shipyards continued building and repairing ships and vessels even when Leningrad was besieged. When stagnation, so much memorable to our veterans in shipbuilding, hit the industry, the shipyard took part in the construction of tracking ships Marshal Krylov and Marshal Nedelin, designed for the development of advanced missile and space systems.

Head on to the Arctic

Admiralty Shipyards is now focused on the development of hi-tech ice-capable ships in the surface shipbuilding sector.

November 2017 saw the delivery of the conventional icebreaker Ilya Muromets to the customer, starting an Arctic group. Combining the capabilities of a tug, icebreaker and patrol boat, the ship has proven its worthiness over the 1.5 years that she has been in service, paving the way for ships in ice and taking part in tours of the Arctic group of the Northern Fleet.

Yet another multi-purpose ship is in construction at the shipyard today to further protect interests of the state in the Arctic, namely patrol icebreaker Ivan Papanin.

There has been a trend taking shape recently in the enterprise’s production profile of a growing share of commercial shipbuilding with a chance of reaching 40 percent in 2019. Attesting to this are two first trawlers for Russian Fishery Company laid down this year. These will become the first large fishing vessels produced in 30 years in Russia and our enterprise will take credit for it.

And these does not end the list, since April marked the beginning of another project, the construction of the ice-resistant self-propelled platform Severny Polus (Russian Northern Pole) went in full swing in the interest of the Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environment Monitoring (Rosgidromet). The research center based on the all-weather platform will perform year-round surveys in high latitudes of the Arctic Ocean.

Russia’s flag shipbuilder

This said, the submarine sector has always been the major line of business at the Admiralty Shipyards. Attesting to this is the fact that the Russian Ministry of Defense signed a contract with the shipyard for construction of two conventional Lada-class fourth-generation submarines (Project 677) at Army-2019.

Kronshtadt, a second submarine in the class, was floated out in September 2018. Last touches are made to her today, fine-tuning systems and equipment, while she makes her way through dockside trials. A third ordered submarine, Velikiye Luki, is at the phase of unit construction, having bulk equipment deployed in its standard places. All boats are manufactured to the specifications revised in the wake of operational testing of the lead submarine. The submarines received a deeply modernized ship machinery control system, electric propulsion system, and navigational suite.

In 2016, marking the 110th anniversary of the submarine fleet and 320th anniversary of the Russian Navy, the shipyard finished building six Project 636 boats for the Black Sea Fleet. The construction of one submarine takes about three years. These include trials and tests. However, some boats in the class were commissioned faster to enhance the Navy in solving tasks facing it.

In 2016, the Russian MoD placed an order with Admiralty Shipyards to build a Pacific series of six big Project 636 diesel submarines. While we are at the topic of the Pacific Fleet, it would not be out of order to mention another ship in its ranks, built at Admiralty Shipyards, namely the rescue vessel Igor Belousov. Autumn 2018 saw the first-ever in the history of Russia’s Navy diving operation, performed from the ship in a bell to a depth of 416m with subsequent walk on the seabed.

Walking the technical progress path

Such outstanding breakthroughs in shipbuilding would have been far humbler but for the attention paid at the facility to retooling and production modernization. In the past five years, the shipyard made a significant leap forward.

The enterprise takes part in three projects already apace in this area, namely the federal earmark Development of the Defense Industrial Complex in 2011-2020, retooling plan, and the program for Acquisition of Equipment and Movement of Property of the Admiralty Shipyards from Novo-Admiralteysky Island (Russian for new admiralty).

However, the largest project so far has been the development of the shipyard’s building and commissioning shop into a closed-loop advanced system for construction and maintenance of conventional submarines, which will provide for a construction rate of four boats per year and broaden the capabilities of the shipyard in cutting construction and maintenance time. Also, commissioned have been a new metalwork and hull shop complete with a site for construction of titanium alloy items and a battery charging station. Work is in progress to build a laboratory test building, equip the cleaning, painting and special coating chamber, as well as retool and renovate machine-building sites.

In spring 2015, a new pipe processing operation sprang to life, combining the whole technological cycle of pipe work, including tests, x-ray checks and storing, now provided on the premises of one building, which has a positive impact on the overall effectiveness. The new shop features an automated warehouse with a capacity of 90t for storing engineering items.

Another know-how adopted at the shipyard is a 3D modeling chamber for measurement of templates. It includes 16 video cameras to take measurements with great precision, which are visualized and fed to a CNC machine for final processing and bending of pipes.

Apart from this large-scale project for deployment of a system for construction of conventional submarines, provisions have been made for retooling other shops as well. The shipyard is busy today reconstructing the ventilation system of the building and commissioning shop and warehouse, as well as purchasing and deploying machines in production shops. Besides, the enterprise keeps moving its operation from Novo-Admiralteysky Island to improve logistics in the southern and central facilities, cut overhead costs and build up the production potential. This modernization endeavor does not affect the production operation, thus has no impact on the current obligations of the shipyard.

Philosophy of success

Industrial psychologists claim that the trademark style of an enterprise can tell one if not its fate but at least development routs of the facility. The abbreviated name of Admiralty Shipyards in Russian, AV, speaks loud and clear; it does not need to be explained. The 315-year long history attests to this. Since we live in an industrial age, it is essential to build a lean and straightforward system and have production operations focused on development and improvement.

The staple of success today and in the future is competitiveness and quality, high technologies, skills of the managing staff and qualification of the personnel. In 2017, an effort kicked off at the shipyard to implement a large-scale project for integration of a careful production approach under USC’s strategy. To this end, the shipyard selected the mast raising equipment (MRE) site of the machine-building operation for as the pilot facility.

Phase 1 required to cut overhead costs. For starters, it was required to locate tight spots, which paved the way to another 18 measures on the plan list. This resulted in that instead of 20 months previously earmarked for production of one MRE the operation needs only 16 months. Gain without significant funds is the desirable result of the careful production approach integration.

Then the program footprint expanded to the hull and special tool production sites. In 2018, another four production development measures were implemented and 11 more were given the go-ahead. These encompass both production and business sectors. The measures have resulted in an aggregate gain of more than 143 mln. RUR.

It takes the whole staff to integrate new solutions and principles. At Admiralty Shipyards the process involves personnel of various categories from a store keeper and auxiliary personnel to machine operators and site supervisors. Besides the operation sites, the careful production initiative requires participation of specialists with the technical and engineer centers, acquisition section, accounting office, and IT center.

Obviously, transition to a new labor system as any development measure is multiphased and complex. For the magical formula ‘Minimum Costs – Maximum Results’ to gain traction, much has to be done with every step taken in accordance with the plan, adjusted to the current situation. Thus, a lot of attention is paid to the training of the staff in the manufacturing and careful production basics, kicked off last year. Specialists with the Production Development Section, who received the training earlier, share their expertise with workers and engineers with due consideration of the specific nature of employment conditions in various sections and divisions of the shipyard of each person.

In the anniversary 315th year, apart from lectures and tours of a model site the staff have the opportunity to sign up for the interactive course ‘USC’s Production Systems Basics.’ Learning of theory is not what it is all about for it is essential to implement the received skills and knowledge in the production operation as well. The first run of the course this year will cover 1,500 personnel, while the next will have everybody trained in new manufacturing principles and approaches. Not least important is the fact that the mentors themselves never ceases training and broadening their professional competences. In March-June, the Admiralty Shipyards hosted a USC-sponsored training program for manufacturing system instructors. It was attended by 34 specialists from 14 enterprises of the corporation from the Amur and Khabarovsk shipyards to Sevmash and Zvezdochka.

This year’s major task is to implement around 40 projects, achieving an aggregate economic impact of at least 500 mln. RUR. Part of them are already in progress while the others are being prepared.

Alexander Buzakov
Director General, Admiralty Shipyards

“Admiralty Shipyards, parented by the United Shipbuilding Corp., is the oldest shipyard in our country. But I am a true believer in this notion that old does not mean dated. Having been in business for 3 centuries, the enterprise has gained enormous expertise; it is upgraded, retooled and confident in its future.”

The age of 315 years is honorable and very few enterprises can boast that they have been able to log as many years in Russia’s history, let alone continue their development. Admiralty Shipyards can.

Why? The answer is obvious. The shipyard is not just about production buildings, equipment and technologies, but first and foremost it is about people, dynasties of employees, united by a common goal, traditions and fate. Well, then the age of any enterprise is determined by the age of people working there. Our shipyard is getting younger today. Attracted to this place are young and promising specialists with a patriotic and ambitious mindset. They will shape the future, it is them, shipbuilders, who comprise the most precious asset of Admiralty Shipyards. Indeed, our staff are fond of their job, for their dear plant is their second home. They respect the shipyard’s older stairstep brother, St. Petersburg, and continue doing what Peter I loved most, i.e. development of the fleet of our great country, but already in the 21st century.