Kaliningrad Sea Channel is 120 years old
The Kaliningrad Sea Channel, a unique hydraulic engineering structure and the most important transport artery in the economic life of the Kaliningrad Region, turned 120 years old on November 15, 2021.
The length of the channel, which connected the terminals of the Kaliningrad seaport with the Baltic Sea, is 43 km, the depth of the fairway is from 9 to 10.5 m, and the width is from 50 to 110 m. The channel is fenced by 11 dams with a length of 28 km, equipped with 84 stationary navigation signs, 49 floating warning signs, 2 laser gate beacons are installed on the channel. Along the channel there are 111 berths with a total length of more than 16.7 km.
The channel allows vessels of up to 200 meters length to approach sea terminals located in the Baltic cargo area, up to 190 meters in the Svetlovsk cargo area, and up to 170 meters in the Kaliningrad cargo area of the Kaliningrad seaport.
Every year up to 3 thousand vessels pass through the channel, 15 stevedoring companies, 2 vessel repairing enterprises and a shipbuilding plant, as well as fishery facilities are located along the channel and are actively engaged in production activities.
For 120 years, the channel has been repeatedly modernized in accordance with the achievements in the field of navigation controls, navigation equipment, in accordance with international standards for the safety of navigation.
The channel was originally 6.5 meters deep and 40 meters wide in the dam-protected part and 70 meters in the open part. The channel was fenced only with floating warning signs (buoys), and the fairway itself (vessel's course) was built parallel and at the same distance from the shore protection of the protective dams, including at turns. It was supposed to be an additional reference point for navigators.
In the period from 1915 to 1930, the first and largest reconstruction of the channel was carried out. The depth of the channel was increased to 8 meters, the width to 50 meters and a navigation fence was built, consisting of both sash navigation signs and stationary signs on a hydraulic base on the water - a total of 30 pairs. The distance between signs in a pair is 130 meters, and the distance between pairs on bends is determined depending on the turning radius. On straight sections, such pairs of signs form a promising sighting target in addition to linear and sighting navigation targets. There was no such system of fencing the vessel's passage of channels in the world at that time. All signs were luminous, equipped with gas lamps of the type "Julius Pinch". Propane was used as a gas. This made it possible to provide round-the-clock navigation on the channel.
In the period from 1979 to 1986, the second large-scale reconstruction of the channel was carried out. The project envisaged new dimensions of the channel: a depth of 9.75 meters, a width of 80 meters, which would allow receiving vessels with a length of 184 meters, a width of 23 meters and a draft of 8.4 meters.
Further reconstruction of the channel between 2002 and 2015 involved the construction of a railway ferry terminal in Baltiysk, an oil terminal and a sea terminal for the transshipment of soybeans and grain cargo with the formation of a water area on the approaches to the berths of the sea terminal. During this period, aids to navigation equipment underwent significant reconstruction, also the only two laser alignments in Russia were built and now operate.
Since 2004, the Kaliningrad Sea Channel has been transferred to the economic management of FSUE “Rosmorport”. The enterprise is constantly working on its modernization and maintenance. Annually, the enterprise, with the help of its dredging fleet, carries out repair dredging in the amount of about 1.3 million cubic meters. Since 2008, a systematic repair of barrier dams of the channel, including the implementation of the state program "A comprehensive plan for the modernization and expansion of the main transport infrastructure for the period up to 2024" is being carried out.
In order to improve the safety of navigation and the efficiency of navigation on the channel, a vessel traffic management system was created in 1994. In 2009, the Kaliningrad VTS was reconstructed by FSUE “Rosmorport”. It was equipped with modern communication and navigation equipment, which allows in its area of operation, including the Kaliningrad Sea Channel, to provide comprehensive navigation services and complete control over the movement of vessels and their position in the anchorage.
By the forces of the Kaliningrad Department of the North-Western Basin Branch, 97 luminous stationary navigation signs and 67 floating warning signs were installed and are functioning on the Kaliningrad Sea Channel, which ensure the safety of navigation of vessels.
The former inland port in Königsberg could no longer meet the needs of merchants by the middle of the 19th century, since non-self-propelled barges and lighters were used to deliver goods from Pillau to Königsberg and back with further reloading onto larger sea vessels in Pillau, and this was only possible during the summer navigation period. Shipping between Königsberg and Pillau was carried out along the fairway, which passed through the deepest parts of the Frisch Haff Bay. The first mention of dredging dates back to 1540, when it was decided to deepen the connecting channel from Königsberg to Pillau (Baltiysk) to 4 meters.
Maintaining and increasing the depths on the fairway of the bay was very difficult because of its rapid drift, so in 1879 the merchants of Königsberg decided to draw up their own project for the construction of a sea channel. They calculated that the loss from transshipment of goods in Pillau to lightweight lighter vessels to pass through the shallow bay to Königsberg, the loss of time and losses from damage to goods amounted to about 450,000 marks annually. Then they announced a competition for the best project of the shipping route, setting a prize to the winner of 10 thousand marks. After reviewing 20 projects, the jury unanimously awarded the first prize to Hugo Natus, Pillau Harbor Building Inspector. Under the direction of Hugo Natus, the channel was built between 1890 and 1902. Its trajectory did not run along the existing traditional fairway, but along the northern shore of the bay. On the south side, the channel was fenced off from the bay by protective dams, which have been preserved and maintained in good condition to the present. This original engineering solution for the construction of the channel made it possible to protect the fairway from excessive drift, movement of ice fields and preserve the flora and fauna of the unique bay.