At the moment, the MV Diamond is loading 6000 tonnes of bricks in the harbour at St Petersburg. A few miles away, MV Exeborg is waiting just outside the same Russian harbour to load 10,000 tonnes of fertiliser, and the MV Reestborg has just loaded steel tubes at Ust Luga. At St Petersburg alone, Wagenborg shipped more than 600,000 tonnes of cargo last year, with an average of two port calls a week. Wagenborg’s presence in Russia is becoming more important than ever, which is why Jan-Sytse Sijperda, Area Manager Eastern Europe, was appointed in 2013 to reinforce the St Petersburg team. We take a look back at an intense period, and together with the whole of Wagenborg’s team in St Petersburg we look towards the future.
Crewing matters as the main focus of Wagenborg St Petersburg
“Over the past five years, we’ve built up this office from scratch,” says Jan-Sytse. “We originally started as an extension of the Delfzijl crewing organisation and now we take care of all PAN EU Wagenborg crewing. Nowadays we look more widely and we’ve expanded our team with a new director and superintendent. But crewing matters remain the main focus of this office, on which the whole team is now building.”
Close to our people
Polina Parasochka, crew operations manager Eastern Europe, explains: “With two crew managers we take care of about 40 Wagenborg ships, and together with our agencies in Odessa and Vladivostok, we manage around 300 mariners. In recent years we’ve made great strides in improving a professional way of working according to our Good Seamanship philosophy. We’re located in St Petersburg, which puts us literally closer to our Russian and Ukrainian mariners and makes it much easier to communicate with our people.” Crew manager Anna Leon notes: “Effective communication within our team and with mariners helps us make the work run smoothly. We can also organise crew training courses more efficiently.” “Talking of training,” says crew manager Maryana Voronina, “three years ago, we started a special cadet programme, which has proved a great success. We’ve taken on 20 cadets over the past 3 years, almost all of whom have been promoted to higher grades because of their excellent performance.”
“We manage around 300 mariners. In recent years we’ve made great strides in improving a professional way of working according to our Good Seamanship philosophy. ”
Building on experience
Two new colleagues recently joined the St Petersburg team, Evgeniy Kupryakov and Alexander Feltman. Alexander was taken on as director in August 2017 and will take over part of the work of Jan-Sytse. He was one of Wagenborg’s captains for more than ten years. Polina thinks he’s a very valuable addition to the team: “Alexander’s and Evgeniy’s experience is very important for our recruitment and promotion activities.” Maryana adds: “The process of briefing and debriefing is also more professional, because we can arrange a formal interview more easily. Their extensive experience at sea is really valuable in those kinds of interviews.” Alexander says: “It’s about providing the right support for our crew members. We need to get closer to our mariner colleagues in order to close the gap. That’s why this local office is so very important. As former mariners, Evgeniy and I help our people on board to understand, train, and guide. One of my most important objectives is to continuously invest in Good Seamanship. That’s why I remain a captain-coach: to constantly pass on my knowledge to other crew members.”
Makarov State University
This mentality proved its worth for Wagenborg in the recent collaboration with the Admiral Makarov State University of Maritime and Inland Shipping in St Petersburg. Alexander explains: “In close cooperation with one of the best maritime universities in Russia, we are developing a number of special courses for our Russian crew, such as in electrical and a hydraulic troubleshooting. The Polar Code will be mandatory from 2020 on, so we are developing a special basic and advanced ice navigation course for our captains and helmsmen. The quality of our teams will definitely get a boost! Having an HSEQ coordinator in our team can also be a major asset when it comes to checking the quality of work. And ultimately the client will benefit too.” The closeness of the Russian office to Eastern European mariners makes it easy to meet a need for training (usually technical). The training courses developed in collaboration with Makarov State University are a good way to guarantee the quality of the crew.
Quality high on the agenda
Quality is high on Wagenborg’s agenda. That is why Karina Delebis, HSEQ Manager Shipping, has taken the initiative to establish an international network of HSEQ auditors. “By making effective use of the various Wagenborg offices, we get even more control over internal ship audits.”, explains Karina. “That is also necessary because our fleet is growing considerably. We audit all our 80 vessels on an annual basis. These are basically regular, scheduled audits. In order to increase our visibility on board, we want to go on board more often for example for the following up of accidents or serious shortcomings as a result of external inspections. In this way we can make a better contribution to higher quality requirements of external parties. After the office in Madrid and Finland with Albert Snijders as super cargo, Wagenborg Saint Petersburg is the third office that will carry out ship audits. In addition to operational benefits, it also provides a significant cost saving. HSEQ employees spend more than a hundred days a year abroad, which costs time and money. If we can optimally use our existing assets, we can significantly increase the impact of our work “
About the Makarov training Center
The Makarov Training Center in Saint Petersburg is an important subsection of the Professional Development Programs Institute of the Admiral Makarov State University of Maritime and Inland Shipping. This center offers worldwide recognized training courses to university cadets and students, ship’s crews and a wide range of specialists in the offshore, oil and gas industries in Russia, neighboring countries and abroad.
Recently, Makarov State University started training seafarers working in polar waters in accordance with the Polar Code requirements. Two new programs have been developed for deck officers: Polar Waters Basic Training and Polar Waters Advanced Training. The training center has upgraded its simulator complex for these programs.
The lessons and practical sessions are given by highly qualified instructors with years of experience in navigation in arctic waters with ice. The new programmes meet the STCW, MARPOL and SOLAS requirements.
“It’s an honour to be Wagenborg’s first technical superintendent outside the Netherlands. But although I’m based here, the cooperation and communication with the superintendents and the management in Delfzijl is excellent. They give me great support.”
The arrival of Evgeniy Kupryakov gave another new boost to the office. Evgeniy started his Wagenborg career as second engineer on board the MV Mississippiborg in 2009, and he was also chief engineer for Wagenborg Offshore in the Russian Arctic. He then supervised the technical part of the acquisition of seven ex Feederlines vessels. Evgeniy is now responsible for the five M-ships as Wagenborg’s first superintendent based away from head office in Delfzijl. He laughs about it: “It’s an honour to be Wagenborg’s first technical superintendent outside the Netherlands. But although I’m based here, the cooperation and communication with the superintendents and the management in Delfzijl is excellent. They give me great support.”
In 2016, Wagenborg sent the MV Virginiaborg to Kaliningrad as its first vessel for dry docking. “We were pleasantly surprised,” says Evgeniy, “by the quality, speed, and cost of the local shipyard. I now intend scheduling a first special survey for the MV Medemborg in Russia. Every week, local companies and subcontractors come to the office to see me. Such a good relationship with our partners can only be achieved by having a presence in Russia. It means I can select the best technical partners for proper maintenance of our ships in the Baltic. It looks really promising. More vessels are shortly going to be allocated. It wouldn’t surprise me if a second superintendent were to be appointed here.”
The new office setup opens up new opportunities for further development of Wagenborg in Russia. A more versatile Russian team means a better knowledge of the local market and its specific rules and regulations. Alexander explains: “The Baltic has always been an important trading area for Wagenborg. We export a lot of cargo the St Petersburg port region, such as timber, pet coke, aluminium, and steel. That’s not just here but also from other Russian ports such as Ust Luga, Vyborg, Murmansk, Archangelsk, and Dudinka. We are seeing a significant increase in the flow of trade directly into the Gulf of Finland. Now that we are close to the Russian market here, we can be the eyes and ears for Wagenborg’s chartering department to indicate new business opportunities for the company. “
Looking to the future
The Saint Petersburg office has only been operational with the new team for 6 months, but huge steps have already been taken. Not only are certain crewing operations running more smoothly than ever, but technical matters are also promising. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg as regards what’s in the offing in the near future. Jan-Sytse explains: “There’s still a lot more scope here for operational excellence. We are noticing that the standards of all the local port facilities – such as agents, stevedores, and customs procedures – are on their way toward European standards. This office can really exceed all expectations when it transforms further into a full-scale Wagenborg office with representatives from several departments.”
“This office can really exceed all expectations when it transforms further into a full-scale Wagenborg office with representatives from several departments.”
Steel and aluminum
The Russian import and export market for various raw materials is of great importance for wagenborg. For example, Wagenborg imports alumina and exports aluminum ingots. In addition, Wagenborg ships steel to the American continent and also participates in a pipeline project to the Black Sea.
“2 port calls a week!”
Timber from Lomonosov
On the Svir River, near Saint Petersburg, the Finnish pulp, paper and wood manufacturer Metsä Group has invested in a new sawmill. Here first class quality sawn timber is produced. Directly from this production location, parties of approximately 2,500 / 3,000 cbm were shipped by Metsä, with mostly small Russian river ships. The disadvantage of this location is that it is inaccessible in winter, because the Russian water-roads-net is closed due to the cold climate.
In order not to be dependent on Russian tonnage and limited shipping options in the winter, Metsä has entered into discussions with Wagenborg. As a result, larger batches of timber are now shipped with the Icerunners and Kompas vessels from the Wagenborg fleet, ships with ice class 1A notation and a load capacity of 3,500 DWT and an intake of approx. 5,000 cbm wood. Instead of loading in Svir, Lomonosov is now loaded. This port is accessible throughout the year and - despite higher transport costs from the production site to the seaport (about 100km by road) - Metsä has found a competitive alternative in Wagenborg.