Most people know Saint Petersburg as a tourist destination. Especially in the context of Baltic Sea cruises, the city is a popular destination and in recent years has received an ever-growing influx of visitors. Tsar's palaces, castle parks, the Hermitage or the White Nights of Saint Petersburg come to one's mind.
But Saint Petersburg is more than just a romantic holiday destination. With over 5 million inhabitants it is one of the largest cities in Europe, the second largest city in Russia and an important economic centre in Russia and the Baltic Sea region. Founded in 1703 by Peter the Great on swampland, the city has always housed Russia's most important Baltic port, and still does today. Due to its location at the outfall of the Neva into the Baltic Sea, the country is connected by sea with Western, Northern and Central Europe. Strictly speaking, it is not one port of Saint Petersburg, but an entire port complex comprising the port and industrial area of Saint Petersburg as well as other landing and transhipment sites in the immediate vicinity. A large part is located on the islands in the Newadelta.
Measured by the turnover of goods, the port of St. Petersburg - after Novorossiysk on the Black Sea - is the second largest in Russia and one of the largest in Europe. About 2000 people work in the port of St. Petersburg. In addition, there are dependent jobs in the affiliated industry and in the transport sector, which follows the port transhipment. In total, the port has terminals for sea trading, an oil terminal, shipyards for the construction and repair of new ships, and passenger terminals. The various areas are operated partly by the state and partly by private companies. In a kind of leasing relationship, around 25 companies are responsible for the operation and maintenance of the different areas, be it terminals, quays or warehouses.
The core is the seaport of St. Petersburg, which is managed by a state-owned company and in which by far the largest part of the cargo is handled. It is an area that has grown over centuries and was only defined as one area in 2009 and divided into various terminals. Most of them have a connection to the railway network and direct access to the road network, which enables direct transport to and from the rest of Russia by rail. On a total length of 5.3 km there are 31 berths at which 39 bridge cranes with lifting capacity of up to 40 tons and a floating crane with lifting capacity of 300 tons load and unload the cargo ships.
If one considers the entire port area of St. Petersburg with all its sub-ports, it stretches over a quay length of 31 km. Ships with a length of up to 320m, a width of up to 42m and a draught of up to 11m are allowed to moor at 200 berths. Anything exceeding these dimensions may be fixed up to a certain size, but requires the prior written consent of the port authorities. A total of 122 tugboats ensure the smooth manoeuvring and mooring of the large tubs. As the port, like all other ports in the world, is served 365 days a year, this often means that the captains have to confront difficult weather conditions in autumn and winter. Winds can vary the water level from one meter to four meters. Icing of the water surface worsens the situation in winter. Thirteen icebreakers ensure a free fairway and safe passage of the cargo ships to the loading berths and back into the open sea.
Saint Petersburg has a port that has developed steadily and gradually. In contrast to other port cities in the world, where suddenly a major decision is made to implement major innovations (see our article on Shanghai, where a completely new port was built in the middle of the sea in 2005), Saint Petersburg has adapted to the constant changes. One has recognized necessities, changed structures, rebuilt and supplemented existing ones. The first container terminal was opened in 1973, modernised in 1998 and has been in use since then under the name First Container Terminal (FCT). A major investment programme in 2015 focused on modernising the loading technology at various terminals and also heralded the second stage of the FCT. Today, a large number of state-of-the-art cranes at the FCT achieve a handling capacity of 1.25 million TEUs, the storage capacity is 31,000 TEUs and 2900 reefer containers. The large lines run from the FCT to Antwerp, Rotterdam, Hamburg and Bremerhaven.
Another major step towards the future was the construction of a deep-sea container port, which went into operation in 2011. It is located in Ust-Luga, which was previously used as an export port for Russian raw materials. Ust-Luga is located 100 km west of Saint Petersburg, and one disadvantage is certainly the additional land route by rail or road for correspondence with the main ports of Saint Petersburg. However, there were and still are many aspects that spoke in favour of developing the port into a deep-sea port. On the one hand, there was the fundamental need for a deep-sea port for container ships. On the other hand, the ice period in Ust-Luga is around two months shorter than in nearby Saint Petersburg. In addition, a waiting queue with tankers and passenger ships can be avoided. And the journey times to Northern and Western Europe are reduced by one to two days.
Works in Ust-Luga are to continue until 2025. By then, it is planned, handling capacities of 3 million TEU will have been reached. The port of Saint Petersburg is to be made less dependent on partnerships with ports in Finland and the Baltic countries. And finally, Ust-Luga, as part of the ports of St. Petersburg, will be the most technologically advanced port in Russia and throughout Eastern Europe. Saint Petersburg, the gateway for Russia to Northwest Europe. But it is also an open door for Europe to the huge Russian Empire, which has developed so strongly in economic terms over the last thirty years.