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Short History


The Komsomolsk-on-Amur industrial center, emerged in mid thirties, required stable transport routes for export and import. For that purpose, Nikolayevsk-on-Amur State Shipping Company was founded in Nikolayevsk-on-Amur in 1939. The Company performed cargoes transportation to Western Europe and the United States ports as well as domestic carriages to Aleksandrovsk-Sakhalinsky. During World War II, the Nikolayevsk-on-Amur Company's vessels took an active part in lend-lease transportation. The vessels had carried more than 11,000,000 tons of various cargoes. Transportations were performed under undeclared war conditions where every voyage could have turned out to be the final. But the Company's vessels not only managed to escape the enemy submarines' torpedo attacks. The "Vanzetti" Steam Ship, having had turned round the vessel to escape torpedo, broke an enemy submarine's periscope with ship's gun and sank the submarine when it had emerged. All Company's vessels had survived the war. After the victory, Southern Sakhalin and Kuril Islands, formerly separated from the Russian Empire by Japan, were restituted to the Soviet Union. The island location demanded sea transportation as the only way for supplies. Those were the reasons for decision of the Soviet Governement of 27th October, 1945, to set up, on the basis of Nikolayavsk-on-Amur Shipping Company, Sakhalin Shipping Company located in Maoka town, a year later renamed as Kholmsk. Sakhalin Shipping Company fleet consisted then of eleven cargo vessels and two passenger vessels. The vessels' average age was about twenty-five years. Only two vessels were built in Russia, the rest was built in the United States, England, Holland, Germany, Sweden and Norway. Deadweight of the largest vessel did not exceed 3,000 tons. The whole fleet were steam ships. No vessel had radar, gyrocompass or echo-sounder. The vessels' speed did not exceed seven knots.


The mid of twentieth century was period of SASCO development. New vessels were acquired by the Company (the first ones were "Khasan" type steam ships and "Tissa" type motor vessels). Simultaneously, the rest of the fleet was updating. Vessels were rigged up by radar and navigation equipment and new cargo handling gears. In late 50-s, liner carriages started.


By the beginning of sixties SASCO fleet had been renewed completely. New carriage routes were opening. For example, SASCO was one of the main carriers for Vietnam during Vietnam War. In that period, SASCO implemented a famous project known as "fifty autumn days”. In the very south of Sakhalin, construction of Novikovo coalmine began. The construction required a specialized power train. But there was no land road to get the train in place and the construction schedule was threatened to fail. SASCO experts proposed then to use seaway to bring the train in. Another obstacle, which seemed to be insurmountable, emerged: shallow waters round Novikovo. A genius solution then was found. The engine of an obsolete "Arkovo" steam ship had been removed and the power train wagons were put instead of the engine onboard. The "Arkovo" was then towed by SASCO vessels to construction site. A special SASCO expeditionary team had, to that moment, built a viaduct from shore to place of discharge. Upon arrival, the "Arkovo" opened her ramps and tractors towed the brought wagons over the viaduct onshore.


The seventies had become a basis for formation of partnership relations between SASCO and railroads. At that moment, mainland port of Vanino became the main place of transshipment of cargo carried to Northern Far East. The port, though, was actually seasonable as railroad from Central Russia to Vanino did not operate in winter when ice prevented operation of Amur river ferries. A bridge over Amur has not been constructed yet. Under initiative of SASCO, every winter SASCO ice-breakers were directed into Amur fairway and ensured ferry operation all-the-year-round. During this operation 11,000 railway wagons with 4,000,000 tons of cargoes were carried by SASCO ice-breakers. This SASCO procedure had been functioned until the bridge construction was completed. That experience reflected itself in the most significant for SASCO event of those years, namely launching Vanino-Kholmsk ferry line in 1973. An innovation was the decision to carry, by sea, railroad wagons instead of cargoes. That decision had dramatically saved time and costs for transshipment, increased efficiency of carriage. Previously carrying cargoes from the mainland to Sakhalin, but then being available for other employment, SASCO fleet began new routes development. (For example, the seventies were the start for SASCO regular navigation to Magadan). Implementation onboard of automatic control systems as well as effective management gave opportunity to reduce crews and increase labor productivity. In this period, "transportation bridge" between Russia and Japan was founded: timber carriers were returning from Japan with general cargoes reloaded into railway wagons in Kholmsk, carried then by ferries to Vanino and finally delivered to consignees in the former Soviet Union and Europe.


The beginning of eighties was marked by another SASCO specific project. In 1980, "Sakhalin-6" ferry delivered to Magadan an extra large transformer TC-250000 for construction of Kolyma hydroelectric power station. The vessel had successfully broke ice of Okhotsk Sea. Her crew had shown an indeed tremendous proficiency while discharging titanic unit at Magadan. The project had clearly showed that capability of "Sakhalin" type ferries greatly exceeded those initially planned for handling railway wagons between two specialized berths only. Perestroika years in the middle of eightieths were the beginning of SASCO independent operation on international shipping market. Of coarse, SASCO vessels had been operating on that market for more than 40 years already, but strictly under directions of governmental authorities. Those were the times when numerous Russian and foreign cargo owners had discovered SASCO trademark. A lot of them became the Company's standing clients.


Like for the rest of Russia, the end of twentieth century were hard times for Sakhalin Shipping Company, transformed into a joint-stock company on December, 18th, 1992. The collapse of Soviet Union, bankruptcy of planned economy and several unsuccessful reforms caused heavy crisis in Russia. SASCO faced serious troubles, too. The fall of living standards as well as collapse of existing economy ties decreased domestic cargoes' turnover dramatically. Simultaneously but independently, world freight rates had fallen as well. SASCO was forced to reduce its fleet and abandon some traditional routes. It seemed, now and then, that there was no way out of the situation. However, hard combined efforts of SASCO team, alongside with implementation of new management procedures related to carriages, made it possible to overcome in general the ongoing crisis by the end of 90-s. SASCO resumed liner carriage to Magadan and opened new Busan-Korsakov-Vanino and Otaru-Vanino lines.

Our times

SASCO has entered the new millennium as a renovated company. Within last three years, labor productivity has increased forty five times more than it had been before. All vessels comply with all and any last conventional requirements. New types of carriages are in permanent progress. Vanino-Kholmsk line now is not only a railway wagons carrier, but also the most efficient route for track and trailers carrying various goods between the mainland and Sakhalin. SASCO is number three passenger carrying company on Sakhalin, being hard competitor for traditional air carriers. SASCO operates by eight regular lines, and in the summer, 2012 returned to the transportation market in U.S. Positively SASCO has not just surmounted the crisis, but became a dynamic and effective company. These times are indeed OUR TIMES.

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