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16:16 | Jan 23 | 2013

Fair Lena

The mighty northern river has been the main artery of life for Yakuts for centuries.

River transport is second oldest to horse-drawn in Yakutia. And virtually it has no alternative – most settlements of the Republic are located along rivers and have no ground transportation. Today, all the vital goods are still delivered to the Far North citizens by river ships the same as half a century ago.

A curiosity from Belgium
The glorious history of the Lena River navigation started in 1861 with the “St. Tikhon of Zadonsk”. The first “miracle with a fiery stove” – that is how steam ships were called in Russia – appeared in St. Petersburg on the Neva River in 1815. It took almost half a century for the “steamboat” (there was a transliteration in Russian from English “steam boat”) to start furrowing the northern waters of the mighty Lena river.
Do not believe allegations that it was a primitive, little low-power steamer “with a thin funnel, leaving a smoky tail”. First, the Lena fleet used wood in those days, and it burned with little or no smoke. Second, it was ordered by to gold miners for work on Vitim – a swift wild flow river. The steamer was of the tug-passenger class, able to tow barges, and containing "classed" cabins in the lower holds (first class in the fore and second class in the stern). The tug was brought from Belgium, the works of John Cockerill – in those days it was one of the best equipped shipyards.
On a June day in 1862, the embankment of Yakutsk (however, it was just a city ducts bank then) was filled with people – everyone was waiting for the arrival of the first Mr. Haminov’s ship. And there she came – new, shiny with fresh paint, with a powerful horn... It was a real treat for citizens! A service was held, a dinner was given, and visiting was allowed – the usual.
There were many conversations after the visit of the steamer. Before 1895 it was a rare event, not more than 1-2 times per navigation, and only with the opening of fixed term steam navigation of Merchant Glotov the arrival of the passenger ship became regular.

What the ship delivers
It is the river and steamers that introduced residents of Yakutsk to the latest technologies: a powerful steam engine, electricity (steamer “Vitim”, 1896), gasoline engines (cutter “Murash”), the first car, the first aircraft were delivered by steamers. With the beginning of the regular shipping, and in Soviet times with construction of the railway up to the Lena banks, the vast northern region began to be regularly supplied with vital goods.
One of the major historical landmarks in the history of navigation on the Lena River in the Soviet time was the year of 1958, when river port Osetrovo was constructed, where transloading of equipment, building materials and manufactured goods from rail to river crafts is performed. For decades Osetrovo line of cargo delivery to the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) by river transport was considered essential. At the same time freights from the port of Tiksi were coming through the Northern Sea Route upriver.
With the development the Osetrovo port cargo ships with capacity from 600 to 2000 tons became widely used on waterways of the Lena basin. The river fleet was supplemented by local crafts of up to 1,500 tons capacity (that could work on the lake in O class by the Register requirements). These ships (project P-25, P-25B and 1754B) worked all the way from the port of Osetrovo to estuaries of Anabar and Kolyma rivers with calls to Tiksi.
Lena, which was the main thoroughfare of the North-East of Russia, provided the delivery of goods from the central part of the country – up to 80% of the total turnover of the region. In different years, depending on the economic condition of the country, the volume of traffic has been changing significantly.

Combining traditions and opportunities
Shipping traditions were established over a century and a half and they are still inviolable - to deliver cargo or passengers with no accidents, no harm to their destination and on time. And the most important tradition is the love to the great Lena river, mother and nurse, is kept by northern river followers today.
Up until now, Lena waterways are the only means of communication for Arctic citizens. The Far North area of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia), Krasnoyarsk Territory and Chukotka has no railroads or highways, sometimes even airpads. Just the river and its ships carry the hope that during winter there will be heat and light in houses, and products at shops.
The construction of a railway to Yakutsk made the Lena waterway into a link between the two global transport systems – rail and sea. In addition to the traditional function of ensuring the Northern delivery, the Northern Shipping Company can become the main cargo carrier for the next upcoming development of the mineral resources of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia), and, in particular, its Arctic regions. The Northern Shipping Company can be an effective member of the projected transport corridor South-East Asia – Western Europe using the Northern Sea Route. A special state program was developed for these projects, which is strategically targeted at bringing the parameters and categories of inland waterways of the Republic to the values that ensure sufficient capacity for river navigation.
Currently, the fleet is given special attention in view of the plans to build an infrastructure hub. The hub with the center in Yakutsk is to combine four types of transport (rail, sea, air and road) into a single logistics center and to become the biggest traffic transit point on the way between Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. Sea-river vessels should become one of the pillars of transcontinental transportation. Moreover, the experience gained by several generations of the Lena river transport workers will play a huge role in this.

River patron of four regions

Currently JSC LURS (Joint Stock Lena United River Shipping Company) is one of the main subjects of the river traffic in the country. Managed by experienced skippers company annually delivers cargo, consumer goods, and fuel and energy resources for four regions: the Sakha Republic (Yakutia), the Irkutsk Region, the Krasnoyarsk Territory and Chukotka during the navigation.