The contrast between the level of infrastructure for yacht tourism in the Russian and European part of the Gulf of Finland is not a secret for anyone. There is a lack of parking not only in the wild«»areas of the coast, but also in the Russian northern capital itself. Everyone suffers from such disorderly surroundings of St. Petersburg and Vyborg: the situation deprives both Russian and foreign tourists of the opportunity to travel comfortably in the region.
In the case of inbound tourism, the main border crossing point for boats is at Fort Grand «Duke Constantine on» the island of Kotlin, deep in the bay, 70 nautical miles from the nearest European marina. While the optimal daily crossing for a tourist yacht is about 30 miles, this complicates the registration of crossing the Russian border. And without this procedure, foreign boats cannot study the Russian part of the water area.
Together with difficulties in obtaining a Russian visa, all this leads to the fact that instead of 5-10 thousand foreign yachtsmen, as in neighboring Helsinki and Tallinn, only slightly more than 200 boats come to St. Petersburg a year.
However, in the coming years for both Russian and foreign tourists the situation may change for the better. At the end of 2018, St. Petersburg adopted a concept for the development of yachting infrastructure in the city, and by the end of this September, the long-awaited decision on the fate of the joint project 30MILES RusFin between Russia and Finland is expected. What does all this mean for yachtsmen? We tell you in order.
The agreement of the same name between Finland and Estonia was in force from 2015 to 2018. The essence of the project is to create a network of guest marinas on the coast of the Gulf of Finland at a distance of 30 nautical miles from each other - the most comfortable distance that a tourist yacht can pass in a day at a speed of 5-6 knots.
The preparation of the agreement between Finland and Russia began two years ago, but for a number of reasons the agreement was delayed. If the parties manage to come to a consensus this month, the program will finally work from January 1, 2020.
It is necessary to pay tribute to the Russian businessmen: they do not wait for weather by the sea and try to solve problems with an infrastructure by own forces. With the assistance of the Tourism Committee and the Transport Administration of the Leningrad Region the Book-Marina.com project was launched in the region to develop a network of guest yacht berths.
«The state's help is disproportionate because it allows us to solve a wide range of issues related to bureaucracy. But we are not waiting for anything. We believe that we should do for ourselves. We want to rest for ourselves, right? Let's do»it ourselves, - says Sergei Nemtsov, one of the Book Marina creators, who presented the project within the framework of the SPIBS business program.
On the one hand, this analogue of Booking.com for yachtsmen will allow tourists (including foreigners) to search and book berths online. In addition, the service offers yachtsmen clients access to an interactive nautical chart and agency services for port, border and customs formalities, insurance, food and fuel supply, organization of repair work, towing boats and yachts.
The other side of the project is to bring together owners of yacht clubs and marinas in order to encourage them to build guest berths. Today the site is open to all yacht clubs who want to join and there are no contributions.
«What is the meaning of the term "guest marina"? Those who have been to Europe know that the "guest marina" is not only a place where it is convenient to stand on a yacht, but it is also convenient to live because people live on a yacht on long journeys. This is a wonderful place, where we are now with you. Everyone knows that a few years ago there were 24 restaurants and it was impossible to live here. Not at any time of the day or night. Especially at the weekend. The picture is similar in all marinas where boats stand and their owners are at home. These are not guest marinas, these are marinas where boats are standing all the time. The guest marina should be a quiet place that allows yachtsmen to rest comfortably and safely after the transition,"»explained Sergei Nemtsov.
The participating marinas are expected to meet certain requirements. A proper level of security implies that guest yachts are provided with a separate, dedicated berth. A proper level of comfort includes berthing with fingers«or divider beams», good mobile coverage, WIFI and the mandatory possibility of discharging waste from the yacht. However, the final set of services will still be determined by the marinas themselves.
«We are just getting started and we have no task to build guest berths all over Russia. We, as a manufacturing company, cannot afford to build berths all over the country. We would be glad to build it, honestly. We have a lot of yacht clubs operating, which, in fact, should become owners of guest marinas and berths. They must, of course, determine the level of comfort that is not difficult to maintain and will suit their guests. We only provide a resource that unites owners. This is information support»," continued Sergei Nemtsov.
Today the geography of the marina participants is not very large, but it already covers three routes from the Finnish city of Savonlinna to Veliky Novgorod.
«The» creators' blue dream is to provide comfortable passage of tourist yachts from the North-West of Russia to the Black Sea.
Marina St. Petersburg
According to a study published in March 2019 by the St. Petersburg State Economic University on the current state and prospects of yacht tourism in St. Petersburg, as of September 2018, only small vessels in the city were more than 47.7 thousand. In the last 4 years this fleet has been steadily growing by 10-13% (not less than 500 vessels per year). At the same «time, in the city as a whole it is possible to note overestimated cost (in comparison with neighboring European countries) of vessel storage on water, as well as on land, both on open platforms, and in closed hangars (boathouses).
The adopted concept of yacht tourism development in Saint-Petersburg assumes creation of three new marinas in the northern capital: two on the basis of the Baltic «Yacht Club and Neptune Water» Motor Club and one «more» on Canoner Island.
In total, 900 more boats will be available for parking in the city.
«The task in the technical project was set enough, as it seems to me, incorrectly. It was about that we should find territories and water areas without burdens. We understand very well (and in our conclusions we stated it) that first of all, we should take care of preserving the existing marinas and develop the historical marinas. In Kronstadt, for example, -»told during his speech at SPIBS Sergey Kovalev, Project Director of RANHIGS, who was responsible for the concept development.
With this in mind, it seems that we can hope that the creation of three new sites will not be limited to the city. However, in Kronstadt all the attention is now focused on building at least four more marinas. This is conceived as part of a tourism cluster development - the so-called «Island of Forts project .
The good news for those who plan to come (or return) to the Russian part of the Gulf of Finland will be the opening of additional border crossing points next year. According to Sergei Kovalev, the corresponding appeal has already been sent to the Ministry of Transport.
«We asked the border guards to open checkpoints in Vyborg at the first gate (from the fifth to the first one) and in the Narva region. I hope that next year it will happen after all. The border guards say: «if we have the Ministry of Transport's instructions and the money corresponding to the equipment at these checkpoints, everything will happen,"»said Kovalev.
The small boat border crossing point at the first lock of the Saimaa Canal was closed in 2018 due to the emergency condition of the pontoon. Because of this, Russian yachtsmen trying to enter the Baltic Sea from this area now have to go through customs at the usual first gate to the fifth gate to the border checkpoint and then go back.
At the same time, work is underway to increase the validity of the electronic visa to visit St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region, which will begin to be issued on October 1. Now it is valid for 30 days and gives the right to stay in the country for 8 days.
The list of countries, whose citizens will be able to use electronic visa, also hopes to be expanded. As of today, the list includes 53 of them, including all EU countries.
Visa application must be submitted no later than 4 days before the planned visit to the country. There will be no consular fee for visa application.
It is quite natural that all the accumulated problems in the region will not be solved quickly. Thus, the border island of Gogland remains a stumbling block, which the military do not agree to open for tourists.
«Why did they postpone the implementation of the 30 Miles project in its original form? Because we planned to open Gogland Island for tourism. The military strongly objected, through the Foreign Ministry pressured the Europeans, and the project was rejected as such. Now negotiations are underway to open the rest of the islands. God is with him and Gogland. This is bad, of course, but at least Powerful, the other islands. They can hear us, but no results yet. I think that this process will take a long time,"»said Sergei Kovalev.
Those who want to develop marinas, not only in the NWFD, but also throughout the country today have to face imperfections in the legislation that makes it difficult to formalize property rights.
However, according to Vsevolod Gavrilov, CEO of Volvo Penta in Russia, who also spoke at SPIBS, the cause of all troubles may be slightly different.
«We are faced with the fact that management competence is very low today. Today we were talking about the marina. In some pieces we already know how to do it. We can build berths separately. But to get a permit for land by the water - it is already difficult. Other people are already doing this. If it is necessary to build showers, the yacht club should be responsible for it already. There must be a few players to make something happen, to finally get a European marina. Taking into account that in our country people do not know how to negotiate at all (especially with the state business is very badly negotiated), managerial competencies need to be increased. We need to learn how to negotiate»," he said.
In this case, it seems that for the prosperity of yacht tourism in Russia it will be necessary not only to invest money in the development of infrastructure, but also to conduct significant psychological work with those who are engaged in it. Almost even more grandiose task in its scale, than the widespread construction of marinas.
And yet Russian yachtsmen and businessmen do not take enthusiasm.
«Yacht tourism in Russia as such is just beginning. We are, you might say, the founders of this phenomenon, present at the birth of a new project - yacht tourism all over the country. With such a great aplomb we are ready to take these heights by storm, -»says Sergei Nemtsov.
I would like to believe that the heights will really be taken and in 5 years in the Russian part of the water area of the Gulf of Finland from Europe a year on the water will come not hundreds, but thousands of guests.