top of page

Management of Inland Waterway System of Russia - Admission for Foreign Flag Vessels

DC 656.078.12


Inland waterways of Russia resemble significant capital asset and transport infrastructure, facilitating communications of 68 regional states of Russia with more than 45 countries of the world and its 670 ports. This article describes the inland waterway development in Russia, focusing on cargo traffic in the Volgo-Baltic basin and formal procedures of international transport corridors progress e. g. foreign flag vessels admission. Main conclusions of the article are based on statistical analysis done in different researches fulfilled in the Admiral Makarov SUMIS.

The research show that inland waterways and inland ports are a key element of national logistics systems including its international links. There is underused commercial potential for inland waterway transportation in Russia and it can be managed and turned into profits by graduate involving them into international trade, based on opening of inland waterways and inland ports for operators, customers, labor and capital from Russian hinterland, other countries and regions. Inland multimodal ports can benefit from direct connection between regions and business.

Keywords: inland waterways, cargoes, transport, inland ports, Russian State Basin Administrations, management of inland waterways, access to waterways, opening of in- land waterways, Inland Waterways Transport Code of Russian Federation, Volgo-Balt. MANAGEMENT OF INLAND WATERWAY SYSTEM OF RUSSIA —


Geographical or basin-oriented principles are laid into the system of operational management of Russian inland waterway system. It means that waterway systems of Russia (European, Siberian, Northern and Far Eastern) are divided into several parts, which are managed by State Basin Administrations of Waterways and Shipping. Nowadays 10 State Basin Administrations are included in the organiSational structure of Ministry of Transport of Russian Federation. They are carrying out following the tasks and responsibilities:

  1. Maintaining the shipping operations in the waterway areas under their administering;

  2. Maintaining and developing inland waterway fairways and hydrotech- nical sites (canals, locks, berths etc.);

  3. Providing dredging;

  4. Maintaining of aid to navigation equipment (buoys, marks etc.) and hydrographical documentation (charts, rules etc.) on the waterways.

Inland waterway transport of the Russian Federation is involved into transportation of different commodities by international transport corridors, such as "North-South" and "North-Ural". They provide the direct links with other countries of Middle East, South East of Europe, Mediterranean via Black and Caspian Seas, which are connected with inland waterways of European part of Russia.

One of the most intensively used waterway basin of Russian Federation is Volgo-Balt(ic) connecting Baltic Sea and White Sea (up to north) and Azov and Caspian Seas (down to south) through European network of national waterways. Dynamics of cargo transportation via Volgo-Balt waterway is analysed and shown at fig. 1 below. In the last 30 years average volumes of car- goes transported by Volgo-Balt waterways fluctuates around 16 17 mln.t and for increasing it substantially requires more efforts from Federal Government, local governments and businesses.

Being very attractively located to the borders of Finland, Volgo-Balt waterway system has become the part of northern "corner" of 9th "North-South" international transport corridors when it officially came to life by EU and Russia from 1994. On Russian side, for the time being, 9th corridor is taking shape in the aspects of:

  • Modernisation of motorways networks from the borders of Finland to Vyborg, St.-Petersburg and Moscow;

  • Development of Russian ports network at Finish Gulf, including St.- Petersburg, Vyborg, Ust-Luga, Primorsk, etc.;

  • Modernisation or railways system between Helsinki and St-Petersburg;

  • opening of south part of the inland waterways of the 9th corridor for navigation of the foreign vessels;

  • Preparation for opening of northern part of the inland waterways of the 9th corridor for navigation of the foreign vessels.

Opening national inland waterways for foreign flag vessels is one of the strategic actions of the Federal Government (Ministry of Transport) aimed, among others, for improving logistics between EU countries and Russia, and other world regions. Several years of preliminary applied studies where authors took part and consultations on different levels gave a way to start processes beginning from 2007. The part between Azov and Caspian Seas has been opened for sailing of foreign vessels. With some delays and suspensions but next option to bring about is the programme for opening of inland water- ways from St.-Petersburg (Baltic Sea) to Astrakhan (Caspian Sea), and this task is under studies and considerations.

Fig. 1. Cargo transportation dynamics via Volgo-Balt inland waterway system (thousand tons per year)

Main documents which are regulating foreign flag vessels admission to Russian inland waterways are the following:

  1. Decree of the Government of Russian Federation N 85 (of Feb. 2008 with last amendments of Oct. 2017) "On validation of the Regulation on ob- taining permission to sail vessels, under the flag of a foreign state, on the in- land waterways of the Russian Federation";

  2. Paragraph 23.1 of the Inland Waterways Transport Code of Russian Federation "Sailing (of vessels) under the flags of foreign countries on in- land waterways";

  3. ResolutionIorder of the Government of the Russian Federation N 734- P (of May 2012) - "The list of ports and the list of inland waterways opened for vessels under a foreign flag";

Inland Waterways Transport Code of the Russian Federation says, that "Sailing of vessels under the flags of foreign states on inland waterways is permitted on the basis of international treaties of the Russian Federation, as well as on the basis of decisions of the Government of the Russian Federation. Sailing of sports sailing vessels and pleasure boats under the flags of foreign states on inland waterways shall be carried out in accordance with the rules established by the Government of the Russian Federation. Regulation of Sport Sailing Vessels, Leisure and Small Boats is described by Merchant Shipping Code and Federal Law 2 36-FZ from 23rd April 2012 with amendments from 29th December 2017. The list of ports open for vessels entering carry- ing the flags of foreign states and inland waterways on which such vessels are allowed to sail is established by the Government of the Russian Federation".

Obtaining the permission to sail vessel, written in a form of Decision of the Government of the Russian Federation requires from shipowner following procedures:

  1. Sending a Requesting Letter of the Competent Authority of Foreign State (e. g. Shipping Company) to the Ministry of Transport of Russian Federation (60 calendar days prior to ship voyage). Requesting Letter in Russian language shall contain following information: vessels name (International name in accordance with ship documents is permissible in case impossibility to transliterate name into Russian); flag of the vessel; shipowner's name; port of regis- try; vessel's type; main dimensions (length, width, draft, air draught); route of the voyage; information about cargo carried and passengers; timing and purpose of the entry (number of entries) to inland waterways.

  2. After receiving Requesting Letter the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation will prepare a Draft Resolution (order) of the Government of the Russian Federation on permission to foreign flag vessel to sail (navigate) on inland waterways of the Russian Federation; and endorse this Draft Resolution of the Governments of the Russian Federation with other governmental bod- ies: Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ministry of Defence; Federal Security Service, Federal Customs Service, Ministry of Agriculture, Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Well-Being. Time for endorsement of Draft Resolution by the interested federal executive bodies cannot exceed 10 calendar days from the date of document receipt.

  3. Completing the procedure, the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation notifies the Competent Authority of a Foreign State (e. g. Shipping Company) about the decision taken by the Government of the Russian Federation within 5 calendar days from the date of its adoption, which indicates: name of the vessel; flag (nationality) of the vessel; ship sailing route; the timing and purpose of the entry (number of entries); the need for border, customs and oth- er types of control of the vessel, its crew and passengers.

Main conclusions from above described issues are following.

  • Facilitating access to the inland waterways can bring together companies of different businesses from interior of Russia and the same areas of neighboring countries and of other regions.

  • There are more than 130 ports on the inland waterways and only 40 of them are listed as opened for foreign vessels. In the Volgo-Balt network there are only three such ports (St-Petersburg, Podporozhsky (Leningrad Oblast) and Cherepovets (Vologda Oblast). Nearing them is Petrozavodsk port in the capital of Karelia Republic, and all these inland ports linked with foreign ports can play important role in improving regional logistics and better use of Volgo- Balt and inland waterways of Russia.

Research Group:

  • Vladimir Nikiforov,, Head of Management of Waterway Transport Enterprises Department, Admiral Makarov SUMIS

  • Anatoly Burkov, PhD (Marine Eng. Econ.) Associated Professor of Management of Waterway Transport Enterprises Department Project Manager, "INFUTURE" Project, CBC Program, Admiral Makarov SUMIS


  1. Anatoly Burkov. Logistics and inland waterway transport background in the infuture project studies between Russian and Finland partners. In Proceedings "Logistics: Actual Trend of Development" of XVII International Research Conference, April 4 and 5, 2019: Part 2 I Editor prof. V. S. Lukinsky, [others]. - St.-Petersburg.: Admiral Makarov SUMIS, - 2019. - 336 c. ISBN 978 5 9509 0346 5; p.261 267. - URL: 5.04.19. pdf.

  2. Стратегия Развития Внутренного Водного Транспорта Российской Федерации до 2030 года. Распоряжение 327-p от 29 февраля 2016 года. Правительство Российской Федерации. - URL: giya_razvitiya_vnutrennego_vodnogo_transporta_na_period_do_2030_goda.html

  3. Междунароный транспортный корридор «Север - Юг», 2016. - URL: asset_publisher/fajfwCb4PqDA/content/id/2510952.

  4. G. Gladkov, V. Nikiforov, V. Kluev, A. Burkov Program of actions for preparing of Inland Waterways of European part of Russia for international shipping In the Proceedings of the Third Inter-national Conference on Mari-time Transport, Inland Water-way Transport and Maritime History, Barcelona, May 2006, p. 233 242.

Photo: Copyright Kari Martiala


bottom of page