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2 Jul, 2007 12:07

Moscow Shipyard charts course for ‘megayachts’

The biggest ocean yacht ever produced in Russia rolled off the Moscow Shipyard line on Thursday. The 45-metre craft was sold to an undisclosed British buyer for upwards of 20 MLN euros.

The private vessel, which includes sonar for iceberg detection, several cinemas and a helicopter launchpad caps a remarkable turnaround for the shipyard.

“In the mid-1990s we were a wreck, nothing was being produced, a far cry from the 1,800 cruisers and oil industry ships made in Soviet times. Then two years ago we retraced the historic steps of Peter the Great to the Timmerman Yard in Holland, whose founder Franz Timmerman taught the tsar the art of shipbuilding,” says Evgeny Mitkin, the shipyard CEO.

The Shipyard refocused on the highly profitable ‘megayacht’ sector, attracting the world’s top yacht designer Jon Bannenberg and moved to exclusively western construction equipment.

The Moscow Shipyard’s 'Novaya Zvezda', or New Star, was main attraction at the Moscow Yacht Festival last week. At 15,000 euros a day, this is the first mega-class yacht available for hire in Russia, the world’s fastest growing yacht market.

“This is the only one of this class, of this category, that is promoted as a ‘charter yacht’, one that can be charted by anyone. There are four cabins, a big dining room on the main deck, a smaller dining room with a bar counter on the upper deck, and a big sundeck for sunbathing,” sais Ekaterina Shepeleva, Mosturflot manager.

The shipyard admits the government provided soft loans as well as commissioning a 30-metre yacht for Vladimir Putin to launch the turnaround in 2003, although the privately-owned yard claims it is now self-sufficient and profitable.

“Russia needs a shipbuilding industry. We need new cargo ships as well as icebreakers, oiltankers and leisure boats to support the rising economy. The country has a vast shipbuilding background and water network to compete with the likes of South Korea which exported over $US 15 BLN in ships in 2006,” believes Ilya Makarov, shipbuilding analyst from Alianta Group.

Other Russian shipbuilders now need to follow The Moscow Shipyard’s lead. The Ministry for Industry said last week that over 220 ships need to be built just to develop Russia’s  Arctic Shelf over the next two decades, yet the country’s number two tanker company Novoship currently does not own a single Russian vessel.

In 2001 stray dogs roamed the yard, which was rented out to haulage companies to stay afloat. Now the order book is filled with foreign buyers to 2010. The Moscow Shipyard is a model for how a Soviet legacy can be turned round into a global success.