Bunker Suppliers Keep Going in Russian Deep Freeze

Monday, January 20, 2003
The extreme weather now gripping the Eastern Baltic region is badly affecting all transport sectors, and bunker suppliers in the Russian port of St Petersburg are being hit as hard everybody else. Nevertheless vessels are still being supplied with fuel despite North West Russia's worst winter for 50 years, according to leading St Petersburg bunker company ECO Phoenix Holding. The very cold weather began in late December when night-time temperatures went as low as minus 33 degrees C. The Gulf of Finland has been covered with thick ice. Between St Petersburg and Gotland the Baltic is covered with sheet ice 19 in. to 47 in. thick. To the west of Gotland there is drifting ice 7 in. to 17 in.thick.

St. Petersburg is being kept open thanks to the efforts of a fleet of icebreakers. Within the port area icing is much more severe than normal with areas of accumulated broken ice over .5 in. thick in places.

The unusually severe weather makes it very difficult to bunker vessels in St Petersburg. Nevertheless ECO Phoenix's deputy general manager Dmitry Ivanov says: "We are still making supplies to vessels but of course volumes are down because of the considerable problems we face every time we send out a bunker tanker to a ship in the port. It is impossible for us to get to a vessel without the assistance of harbour tugs which are difficult to hire because they are being kept busy assisting vessels departing and arriving." Ivanov adds: "We will have to cope with these unusually severe ice conditions for some time to come. Even if the air temperature rises, the ice will not melt until April." Before the really cold weather started bunker volumes were holding up well. In December Eco Phoenix delivered about 12,000 tonnes of fuel oil while the total volume of bunkers supplied at St Petersburg was about 40,000 tonnes. Those volumes were about half the comparative figures for the summer months but up slightly on December 2002. It is certain January's volumes will be much lower.

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