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Plans have been announced by the Russian Federation to develop the shipping industry in the Caspian Sea, along with increased development of passenger and cruise shipping in the Black Sea.

Deputy Minister of Transport Victor Olerskiy spoke of both the potential for opening up new lines of transport along the North-South Corridor, as well as the effects the launch of the Crimean Bridge will have on the tourist trade. More information about the construction of the Crimean Bridge can be found in the embedded short video.

These announcements came at around the same time as the signing of a landmark deal by the five Caspian nations: Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan as well as Russia. The deal, which comes off the back of more than two decades of tension in the region, will act as a legal framework for the sharing of the Caspian resources between the five nations, which include oil and gas reserves along with sturgeon fishing.

Caspian Sea Convention

Representatives of the five littoral Caspian nations gathered in Aktau in Kazakhstan in August 2018 to sign what is being described as a regional constitution document by diplomats, outlining agreements on the shared use of the Caspian Sea and its natural resources. More information about the geography of the Caspian Sea can be viewed in the PDF attachment to this post.

Apportioning the seabed was one of the main sticking points prior to drawing up the convention. Iran, with the smallest area of coastline on the landlocked sea, was not in favour of drawing up an equidistant line from each coastline, while Russia showed reluctance to allow for a natural gas pipeline between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan.

The finalised agreement resulted in each nation agreeing to accept 15 miles of sovereign waters and an additional fishing area of 10 further nautical miles. Beyond these territories, common waters remain. The issue of dividing the subsoil territory, which is rich in hydrocarbons, has been put off.

Tourism in the Russian Sector

Following the signing of the convention, Russia announced plans to develop tourism within its region of the Caspian Sea. These plans involve building a fleet of cruise ships, which Russia estimates will bring approximately a million tourists per year to resorts across the region, benefitting all five of the littoral states.

A memorandum was signed in 2017 by the Moscow River Shipping Company and the Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Company regarding collaborative use of the Russian cruise ship due for launch in 2019, known as ‘Peter the Great’. Coastal infrastructure is being developed by Russia and Azerbaijan to support organised cruise tours in the Caspian Sea.

Potential plans for Peter the Great include a variety of travel options ranging from short cruises (seven to eight days) to longer, two-week versions covering all five of the Caspian countries. There is further potential to open up longer cruises that use connecting rivers to explore the Black Sea and the Azov Sea as well as the Caspian.