Government incentives inspire Russia’s Norebo Group to build a fleet of 10 Icelandic-designed whitefish trawlers

Ivan, a 50-something taxi driver, approaches me at the St. Petersburg ferry terminal. “Where you want to go?” he asks.

“How much for airport?”

“2,000 ruble. Fast street 200 more.”

This story was first published in the September issue of National Fisherman. Subscribe today for digital and print access.

That’s about $30, but it’s gotta be done. We take the fast street.

“Me, little English,” says Ivan. But he has his opinions to share. “CCCP [Soviet Union] good. Everything free. Everything cheap. Now everything expensive. But young people like. Now good for young people. CCCP good for old people.”

We’re driving through St. Petersburg, Russia, one of the Russian Federation’s largest shipbuilding centers. Founded by the Tsar Peter the Great in 1703 as a window to the West, the city was renamed Leningrad when Vladimir Lenin died in 1924. In 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the city’s citizens voted to restore the old name.

On a beautiful spring morning, Ivan drives past Severnaya Verf Shipyard, where welders are finishing the Kapitan Sokolov, an 80-meter freezer trawler for Norebo Group, Russia’s largest whitefish producer. In 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off on the Investment Quota Program, intended to spur investment in the country’s aging fishing fleet by offering quota increases to companies building new boats in Russia.

Besides the Sokolov, Severnaya Verf has also laid the keel for the Kapitan Geller, and is cutting steel for the third of 10 Norebo boats scheduled for delivery through 2026. Because the yard also services Russian naval vessels, it’s off-limits without a lengthy clearance process. “It would take months,” says Sergey Sennikov, chief sustainability officer at Norebo Management.

“The state will transfer 20 percent of the quota to the investment program,” explains Sennikov, who participated in the design of the program. “Of that, 75 percent will go to vessel construction, and 25 percent to land-based processing.”

Norebo initially ordered six vessels for its Northeast Atlantic fleet, but then added four more vessels for its Sea of Okhotsk and Bering Sea pollock and herring fleets in the Northwest Pacific region. “The program is only for two years,” says Sennikov. “So that accelerated our plans to build these boats.”

Under the program, as explained by Sennikov, fishing companies with fishing rights can build new boats in several categories. For instance, for the Northwest Pacific region it includes three categories: over 80 meters (262 feet), over 95 meters (311 feet), and over 105 meters (344 feet).

“The state will take 20 percent of the existing fishing rights and redistribute them through the program,” says Sennikov. According to Sennikov, the state allocating investment quotas will add 50 percent of the fishing rights of the vessel, based on the daily production capacity of the vessel’s processing equipment. “Of course you may produce more, but the quota share is established according to the minimum production capacity of the equipment. The percentage of fishing rights is set for 15 years,” says Sennikov. “The actual tonnage of the TAC is set annually.”

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Paul Molyneaux is the Boats & Gear editor for National Fisherman.

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