Merchant Marine Transport System

The spread of Communism and economic growth within the Soviet Union after World War II led to a large expansion of foreign trade. Turnover of goods at Soviet seaports increased five times between 1960 and 1975. Development of Siberian and Far Eastern resources also stimulated additional movement of goods on coastal shipping routes and between ports on different seas. The Northern Sea Route was very important to Soviet planners. It linked together ports located on the northern coast of western Russia and Siberia. Unfortunately, this sea route is open only three months a year. Icebreakers are required to maintain shipping channels. In 1991, there were 66 seaports in the Soviet Union.However, only 28 ports handled 96 percent of the foreign trade. Oil, timber and raw materials, military hardware, and machinery were the major products shipped from Soviet ports in 1991.Most ports have been equipped to handle container ships.

Russia has few seaports that can handle international shipping year-round. Murmansk, north of the Arctic Circle in northwestern Russia, is ice-free, but is located far from the internal Russian markets. St. Petersburg is Russia's most important seaport. However, its harbor freezes over with very thick ice for months during the winter. Kaliningrad, located between Poland and Lithuania, is a relatively ice-free port, but, like Murmansk, it is isolated. Novorossiysk, on the Black Sea, is ice-free, but far from Moscow. Vladivostok, located on the Sea of Japan, has a perfect natural harbor.However, it is not close to the population center of Russia. Russia has always been in need of a good warm-water seaport. The lack of such access to the major markets of the world continues to hinder Russia's socioeconomic development.

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