November 30, 2017 – Fort Russ News –
– Christelle Néant in Agoravox.fr, translated by Tom Winter –
|“They found the sardine (Russian!) that blocks the straits”|
An American think tank wants to launch a war against Russia for a Ukrainian remake of The Sardine That Plugged the Harbor.
Any Frenchman who knows his classics has already heard the famous expression of the sardine that blocked the port of Marseille. It became the symbol of the exaggeration typical of the inhabitants of the city (and this even if the expression is based on a true story which has been distorted due to a typo).
It must be believed that some people in the Ukraine and the United States must have come from Marseille for having thus embarked on a delirious hyperbole worthy of the sardine story. This time, it is not the Old Port of Marseille that would have been plugged, but the Kerch Strait! And for the sardine, it is the bridge Russia is building over the strait which is accused of all the trouble.
After the Ukrainian Foreign Minister’s 11 August protest over Russia’s restriction on the use of the sea to install the arches of the bridge (barely a few days of interruption), the Ukrainian authorities have embarked on a bidding war of complaints.
Now, they claim that the Kerch Bridge is a great threat to the ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk, because according to these authorities, it would only allow boats up to 10,000 tons. A disaster for the ports of the Sea of Azov. According to them, this would be due to a new restriction on the size of the boats that could pass through the straits, from a maximum length of 200 m, to 160 m. The Ukrainian authorities blame this new limitation on the Russian Federation, indicating that this would impact 43% of the cargoes passing through the port of Mariupol.
Some articles, such as in Mariupol TV, go even further in fabulism, claiming that the height under the arches, which is 35 m (and not 33 m as stated in the Ukrainian article), would prevent any Panamax passing under the bridge and thus be able to serve the port of Mariupol, which would cause a drop of 30% of the maritime traffic in this same port. A story of adding a layer in catastrophism: the site even says that it would jeopardize the delivery of a million tons of steel to the United States that should normally be sent from the port of Mariupol.
The article concludes again with the losses caused by the few days during which all maritime traffic was interrupted because of the laying of arches (without mentioning that Russia also has ports in the Sea of Azov that were impacted by these interruptions).
Knowing that these days of closure of the Straits were announced in advance, it was not difficult to reorganize shipping traffic, either to other ports such as Odessa, or to postpone the delivery by a day or two. Nothing dramatic, and therefore contrary to what these delirious articles claim, as they impute to Russia a desire to economically destroy the Ukrainian ports of the Sea of Azov.
As a result, an American think tank, the Atlantic Council, proposes nothing less than declaring war on Russia by sending American warships into the Sea of Azov, supposedly forcing Russia to unblock the strait, all because of this story of Ukrainian galéjade.
For, on closer inspection, a certain number of points of fact come to somewhat undo the mechanics of Ukrainian and American propaganda.
Russia has five ports in the Sea of Azov located past the bridge: Rostov, Eysk, Temryuk, Azov, and Taganrog. Without being very large ports (Rostov is in 16th place in terms of tonnage among all Russian ports), they still have a significant economic importance for the economy of the cities concerned, with a total annual tonnage of 29.1 million tons in 2016, of which 12.9 just for Rostov alone.
This is almost three times more than the official tonnage of Mariupol and Berdyansk, and certainly 10 times the actual tonnage of these ports, according to experts on the activity observed in them.
It is obvious that the Kerch Bridge was designed so that the Russian ports of the Sea of Azov can continue to work without economic loss. If these ports, which manage an annual tonnage of at least three times that of Mariupol and Berdyansk can continue to work, it is difficult to see how these two ports, smaller in terms of tonnage, could suffer as heavily from the bridge construction as announced by Ukraine.
The only new restriction is 35 meters clearance above the water level. This prevents some boats from crossing the straits (some Panamax, very large cruise ships, American aircraft carriers …), but it still allows some bulk carriers 50,000 tons, not 10,000 tons as the Ukrainian sources are saying.
For bigger boats, the problem is not so much the height above the water level as the depth of the straits. Indeed, if the height of 35 m would let some bulk carriers pass about 100 000 tons, they can not cross the Kerch Straits anyway, because of the shallow depth of the latter:
|Depth map of the Sea of Azov|
To pass through the Kerch Straits (circled in red on the map), it is necessary to have less than 8 meters of draft, so even before the construction of the Kerch bridge, it was already impossible for the port of Mariupol to receive Panamax, whose draft is 13 to 15 m !!!
And contrary to what some delirious media like Deutsche Welle report, without verifying what they are told, the limit of 8 m of draft is not newly imposed by Russia, it is a constraint related to underwater topography! Russia is in no way responsible for the shallow water in the strait. On the contrary, since in the imperial period then into the late 1960s, the channel was dredged to increase its depth, which was previously only 6.4 m! If since the 1970s the maximum depth of the strait in some places is 9-9.75 m, the sailing limit is 8 m since that time. So there is nothing new under the sun.
As regards the length of the vessels, the only limitation of length which exists, and which is mentioned on the Russian official sites, is of 252 m (by order of the Minister of transport of 21/10/2015 № 313), up even compared to 2014, where the limit was 215 m. The only constraint for boats over 215 m is that they must go through the straits by day and be towed by a tug. In other words, in fact with the new restrictions, some ships previously denied access to the Sea of Azov are now allowed.
In addition, a Panamax-type bulk carrier carries about 200 000 tonnes, knowing that Mariupol and Berdyansk have official annual tonnages of about 7 Mt and 3 Mt, it is difficult to see (apart from the factor of the draft) how these ports could supposedly live from regular traffic of this type of bulk carrier (their annual tonnage would then be very much higher than published). It would take 15 Panamax to make the annual tonnage of the port of Berdyansk! The ridiculous Ukrainian claims about the percentage of boats affected by the construction of the Kerch Bridge are clearly visible here.
The harbor master of Kerch, whose statement of August 23 is distorted by the Ukrainian media to stick to their delusions, makes it clear that the situation of the port of Mariupol is in no way due to new restrictions — that do not exist — but to the economic situation of Ukraine.
Thanks to the MarineTraffic site, you can see the boats in the Azov Sea. Looking at the boats that serve Mariupol or Berdyansk, we find that those with the largest draft are the Sabahat Sonay, on the way from Mariupol to Haifa. Tt carries a maximum of 9,490 tons with a draft of 7.8 m (9.3 m when loaded to the maximum, which is impossible to cross the Kerch Straits); and BENCET C, en route from Mariupol to Italy, which carries up to 13,675 tonnes and 7.9 meters of draft (9.5 meters maximum load).
Looking at the traffic today, I discovered a cargo of about 20,000 tons, the Federal Oshima, which goes to Mariupol, and which, with its 4.8 m of draft and its almost 200 m length, had no problem to cross the Kerch Straits and go under the bridge (the arches are already installed, the height limitation is already relevant). At the time of writing, it is in the Sea of Azov and going to Mariupol.
All this shows that the average maximum loading on the Sea of Azov is about 12,000 tons, and sometimes 20,000 tons. The lengths of boats visible on MarineTraffic rarely exceed 140 m, but exceptionally reach the 200 m as in the case of the Federal Oshima (and we can see that the so-called limitation length of 160 m announced by Ukraine is from the flank since this boat crossed the straits and passed under the bridge without problem).
Then say, as the Ukrainian press does, that the ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk will lose traffic because they will not be able to load and unload 50,000-ton bulk carriers or Panamax, which can not cross the Strait anyway. Kerch, bridge or no bridge, it’s pure lying.
The statements of the Ukrainian port authorities to the German newspaper Deutsche Welle, announcing an average size of boats 175 m by 27 m high, and with an average draft of 9.6 meters are outright lies. You can not load a Panamax into a port in the Azov Sea, deck or not, because of the 8-meter draft limit of the Straits. The five bulk carriers going to or from the two Ukrainian ports of the Azov Sea at the time of the survey had an average draft of 5.6 meters (and a maximum draft slightly higher but far from the 9, 6 m announced).
Finally, to demonstrate the ridiculousness of Kiev’s claims, Ukrainian media such as Strana.ua mentioned the ESRA C as an example of a vessel blocked by the so-called new 160-meter limit (it is 175 meters long and nearly 20,000 tons of loading). But the boat, from Italy (left Trieste September 2) crossed the straits without problem, passed under the bridge and arrived safely yesterday in Mariupol (it is still there today). Here fake news level reached a stratospheric level!
It is also interesting to note when looking at this MarineTraffic website, that the large part (at least 3/4 or more) of the Azov Sea traffic concerns the Russian ports and not the two Ukrainian ports.
Let us now return to the delirium of the Atlantic Council to send American warships to force Russia to lift the blockage of the Kerch Straits that exists only in the heads of Ukrainian officials who are ripe for a psychiatric asylum.
The whole article is delusional and shows that the author (Stephen Blank) does not know what he is talking about and just pours out his sickly Russophobia. But the funny thing is his proposal to send the US Navy into the Sea of Azov. Because as this man does not study his subject before writing, he does not know that US aircraft carriers have a draft of about 12 m, destroyers a little over 9 m, and cruisers 10 m . Even American attack submarines have a draft greater than 9 m and could not even pass by surfacing.
Clearly, the US warships are far too big to pass through the Kerch Straits and would have to plow to get into the Sea of Azov to unlock anything, bridge or no bridge! The largest American ship that could cross the strait would be a frigate. With that, not sure that Russia would impressed …
This think tank, which can safely be filed in the warmonger drawer, is not in its first delusional try concerning Russia. At the beginning of the year, they had written an article, still on the Kerch bridge, saying that the bridge project had been prepared in a hurry (while the project had been planned since 2010, sic), that it was poorly designed, and will not resist the ice (confusing the current engineers with those of 1944 who had made design errors that proved fatal for the first version of the bridge, errors that modern engineers will not remake), and finally that this bridge was built without any regard for the environment, while significant measures were taken to preserve all the local fauna.
These are the kind of “American strategists” who want to trigger a war between the United States and Russia (both nuclear powers), based on a Ukrainian fish story. Unable to verify their information, and especially unable to verify if their war plans are feasible, they totally ridicule themselves.
If these people did not have the capacity to push governments to follow their stupid plans, and embark on a war with a nuclear power, it would be comical for a Ukrainian-style remake of The Sardine That Blocked the Harbor.