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Tanker boom in the Caspian

ASTANA. August 21. KAZINFORM The Krasnoye Sormovo shipbuilding yard in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, has completed the first oil tanker with cargo carrying capacity of 13,000 tons to be delivered to its Kazakh client KazMorTransFlot, the National Maritime Shipping Company. The vessel named Atyrau is the first of three tankers ordered by KazMorTransFlot from Krasnoye Sormovo; the first will be delivered to the Kazakh company in September - and the two others should be floated by May and August of 2010. KazMorTransFlot carries out transportation of all freight including crude and oil products, general cargo, containers etc; it also oversees construction, operation and repair of other types of vessels, as well as providing chartering and leasing services. In April this year Krasnoye Sormovo and KazMorTransFlot signed a contract for the tankers worth a total of $66.45 million. When KazMorTransFlot held an open tender in March 2009, six others companies applied. Krasnoye Sormovo's proposal best complied with international conventions on protection of marine life and environment - and as a consequence it won the contract. Krasnoye Sormovo's tankers are now the largest oil carriers used on the Caspian. Their 13,000-ton deadweight is considered optimal for the sea's shallow basin. At the beginning of July 2009, it was announced that Italian Eni and South Korean Hyundai are planning to open their own shipyards in Kazakhstan to build oil tankers for transportation of oil across the Caspian. Hyundai's proposals are already being studied by KazMunaiGas. Azerbaijan's government is also considering the constructing of a new shipyard. The Azeris are in talks with South Korean STX Shipbuilding - but there is a technical inconsistency about those negotiations: the Korean company has made it clear that it is ready to build tankers of the Panamax type - with 63,000 tons of deadweight, but exploitation of this class of tankers is possible only if single buoy mooring systems for loading the tankers are available. The participants of the Kashagan and Tengizchevroil projects are in doubt about the prospects of exploitation of Panamax type tankers. There are only 40 days of calm, windless weather on the Caspian and this greatly limits navigability; the sea is turbulent and the risk is high for ships with large displacement to overturn, and this entails environmental risks. For instance, strong winds in early July in the area of Turkmenbashi port almost halved the monthly landing of Turkmen oil products. During a two-day period - July 6th-8th - loading dropped to 47 thousand tons (while a week earlier it made 61.6 thousand tons). Out of nine tankers in line for loading, five were sent along the Volga-Don Canal but the Port of Aktau was not operating properly those days either. Additional difficulties are created by shallow areas in some parts of the Caspian Sea and the problem is made worse by the lack of up-to-date navigational maps to indicate depth, the press service of the Kazakh Embassy in Israel reports.


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