Sunday, September 27, 2015

"Yauza" Heading to Black Sea

AIS tracking of "Yauza" -- September 10-27, 2015
Since September 10, a vessel named "Yauza" has been making its way from Severomorsk, Russia, to the Turkish Straits, presumably headed for the Black Sea. The day before getting underway, the vessel was at a Severomorsk weapons handling facility (home of the 571st Technical Missile Base), where it was located between 0946 UTC on September 9 and 0456 UTC on September 10. What activity was conducted there is a mystery.
AIS tracking of "Yauza" showing it at a Severomorsk weapons handling facility on September 8-10, 2015
The vessel has made no known port calls since leaving Severomorsk. "Yauza" was noted tracking north through the Turkish Straits today when it unexpectedly turned around between 1222 UTC and 1510 UTC. The vessel continued tracking to the southwest until 1647 UTC when it reached a holding point located ~14 nautical miles east of the Greek Island of Lemnos.
AIS tracking of "Yauza" on September 27, 2015
Given the name and departure port, this appears to be the Northern Fleet cargo and personnel vessel "Yauza". If true, its apparent voyage to the Black Sea would be unusual and could be related to the ongoing transfer of Russian military personnel and materiel to Syria.
Amguema cargo vessel "Yauza" in 2007 -- before conversion
credit: Denis Nemetovskiy
Amguema-class cargo vessel (Rus: Project 550M special-purpose large naval dry cargo vessel) "Yauza" was built at Kherson Shipyard for the Soviet Navy. It was laid down in April 1974 and joined the Northern Fleet in 1975. In 1988, the vessel was resubordinated to the Ministry of Defense's 12th Main Directorate, which oversees military nuclear safety and security programs. Since then, the vessel had been used to transport cargo between the Russian mainland and Novaya Zemlya.
Commemorative booklet celebrating Nerpa Shipyard's 50th anniversary in September 2015
credit: Nerpa Shipyard
On April 3, 2008, the Ministry of Defense signed a contract (253/05/7/K/0329-08) with Nerpa Shipyard in Snezhnogorsk (Murmansk Oblast) to perform capital repairs, modernization, and conversion of "Yauza", to include increasing the number of passengers it could carry to 98. The vessel's superstructure was lengthened, and two new cranes were installed: one on the bow (Liebherr CBW 60/16, 60 metric ton lift capacity) and one on the stern (9 metric ton lift capacity). Other changes included the installation of new main (4 х 1,500 kW) and emergency (1 х 200 kW) diesel generators, steam boilers (2 x 4,000 kg/h), and modern control, safety, and communications systems. The vessel has four cargo holds.
Amguema cargo + passenger vessel "Yauza" in June 2014 -- after conversion
On October 8, 2012, “Yauza” was relaunched. The vessel commenced post-modernization factory sea trials in June 2014 and was turned back over to the Northern Fleet in May 2015. In July, employees of the 51st Central Design and Technology Institute of Ship Repairs received awards for developing design documentation for the vessel's repairs and modernization.

The “Yauza” conversion was not completed without a few scandals. In October 2013, investigators claimed that Nerpa Shipyard had not completed RUB 415 million in work for which it had already been paid. Additionally, the price of the original contract had grown an additional RUB 159.8 million. Contracts fulfilled just between July 2013 and December 2014 totaled RUB 28,006,934, including RUB 6,000,000 for round-trip towing services between Nerpa Shipyard and Severodvinsk in 2014. The final cost of the project reportedly more than doubled from the original RUB 1.6 billion to nearly RUB 4 billion. In July 2015, former Nerpa Shipyard general director Aleksandr Gorbunov was sentenced to four years in prison and fined RUB 600,000 for falsely claiming the shipyard had completed repairs on "Yauza" for which it received RUB 10 million. In September, shipyard employees were still waiting to be paid salaries for June through August. When one worker asked via social media where the money for employees' salaries had disappeared to, another responded it had "sailed away" with "Yauza".