CRIMEA TO CAUCASUS FERRY TRAFFIC RESUMED

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MOSCOW/KIEV, September 18 (RIA Novosti) A regular railway ferry traffic through the Kerch Strait, which divides the Krasnodar Territory of Russia and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (Ukraine) starts functioning again on Saturday. This was done within the framework of the Concept of Integrating the Russian and Ukrainian Transport Systems. The official opening ceremony of the Kuban-Crimea ferry will take place in the Russian port of Kavkaz.

As the press service of the Ukrainian government reported, it is expected that the ceremony of opening the ferry traffic in the Crimean town of Kerch will be attended by Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich.

"The fully restored Crimea-Kavkaz railway ferry will be an important link in the railway transport corridor which connects Kazakhstan and the Central Asian countries with Russia and then with Ukraine and European countries," a spokesman for the Transport Ministry of the Russian Federation pointed out.

The project of the restoration of ferrying across the Kerch Strait has been implemented in accordance with the agreement reached between Russian and Ukrainian Presidents at their meeting in Dniepropetrovsk on December 24, 2003.

It is planned that initially this transport system will be served by one railway ferry, Annenkov, thus named in honour of the project's investor. The ship will carry in one go 24 tanks or 20 railway cars for any cargoes. Within the next six months it is planned to launch the second ferry, which will be built in Sevastopol (the Crimea) and later on the Scythian ferry with a carrying capacity of 50 railway cars.

The design freight turnover of the Crimea-Kavkaz ferry will amount to about 3.4 million tons a year, or more 50,000 railway cars a year.

According to the project's investor, Alexander Annenkov, the total cost of the restoration of the mooring structures and the infrastructure on both shores of the strait stands at 30 million dollars.

"In counting the economic expediency of the project, the investor took into consideration the fact that the restoration of railway traffic across the strait will cut the distance of Russian freight traffic to the Crimean ports by 315 kilometres," a spokesman for the press service of the government of the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea told RIA Novosti. As of today, cargo bookings have been filed for transportation of metals, fertilizers, fuel and other goods.

The Kerch ferrying was initially opened on September 22, 1954 and was meant, above all, for freight and passenger trains. It was closed because of a sharp reduction in the railway freigh turnover at the end of 80s.

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