147th anniversary of the Volga-Caspian Sea Shipping Canal
On August 15, 2021, the Volga-Caspian Sea Shipping Canal had reached 147 years of age.
On this day (August 1 old style) in 1874, the Department of Highway and Water Communications sent a letter to the Ministry of Railways of Russia with the message about the start of the development of the Rakushechnaya placer on the Bakhtemir branch of the Volga River. This event was the beginning of regular dredging on the canal connecting the Volga River with the Caspian Sea.
The canal had been under construction for 40 years, but shipping on it began after 17 years after the start of construction. The length of the canal increased from 33 km in the first stages to 188 km at present.
The Volga-Caspian Sea Shipping Canal is one of the oldest in the world shipping practice, along with the Suez, Kiel and Panama canals, and one of the longest shipping canals in the world – it length is 188 km. It begins with a zero kilometer, located 20 km below Astrakhan, and consists of two parts: the canal part (from 0 km to 86 km) and the seaway part (from 86 km to 188 km). Along its entire length, the canal has natural and artificial slots. The total length of the artificial canal slots is 111 km. The width of the canal varies from 100 to 120 meters, and navigation depths are 4.9 meters in the river part, and 5.1 meters in the sea part. The number of knees on the canal is 47, of which 43 are located in the canal part, and 4 are located in the seaway part.
Before its transfer to the economic management of FSUE "Rosmorport" in 2004, VCSSC was operated by "Naval Administration of the seaport of Astrakhan", and previously - by "North Caspian Shipping Company" and "Kaspreidmorput".
After VCSSC transfer to the enterprise, the Astrakhan Branch of FSUE "Rosmorport", formed in the same year, began to directly maintain its technical condition and development.
From 2004 till present, the Astrakhan Branch maintains the required navigation depths throughout the canal, including the measuring works. The volume of annual dredging on the canal varies from 1.5 to 5.5 million cubic meters.
In order to ensure the safety of navigation along the VCSSC, the branch installed 227 luminous floating warning signs, and other navigation and hydrographic equipment. Every year there are more than 15 thousand vessels in the area of operation of the created VTS Astrakhan.
During the winter navigation periods, 3 icebreakers of the Astrakhan Branch provide the possibility for year-round navigation of vessels traveling along the VCSSC to the Caspian Sea and the seaports of Astrakhan and Olya.
Today the formed infrastructure of VCSSC allows to carry out the sea and river transportation of more than 10 million tons of cargo per year, including within the framework of the functioning international transport corridor "North-South".
Today the Volga-Caspian Sea Shipping Canal has important economic and strategic importance for Russia's interests in the Caspian region.