Russia considering opening up its inland water ways

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has visited the Russian southern city of Rostov-on-Don to see the operation of the new hydrosystem on the Don river. The new shipping lock lets heavier cargo boats to go down the Volgo-Don waterway, bringing navigation on the

Before construction of this lock, this boat wouldn't have been able to ply its trade on the Volga-Don canal.  Even the country’s biggest canals were too narrow and shallow for its multi million tonnes of weight.  The sluice operators say the new lock can handle even the largest modern barge.  It took 140 Million dollars to build this lock. Now these sluice gates can open Russian waters to foreign traffic – one of the conditions of Russia’s entry to the World Trade Organisation.

After visiting the new lock prime minister Vladimir Putin said it's one of the first steps to make Russian waterways meet European standards.

If Russian navigation companies don’t satisfy the demand for river transport, we'll be forced to seriously consider opening Russian internal waterways to vessels operating under foreign flags.

Analysts say that could take some time. The Kochetovsky Hydro system is the first to be built in the past thirty years.  Most of Russia’s 700 locks have operated for more than a century.

All rivers should be redeveloped, they should have new channels and new ports, and every 100 kilometres or so maybe not new ports but new berths and cranes, and it will develop river logistics in a new way.

Experts say the waterway business suffers from a shortage of loading points.  Even the existing ones are only able to deal with building materials such as sand, and are not ready to load modern high value cargoes, such as metals oil or timber.  Analysts say Russias waterway network is larger than it railways system although it transports only 3% of the country’s total cargo volumes. It has a long way to go before it rivals roads and rail.