On August 28, atomic submarines К-391 Bratsk, К-295 Samara and К-442 Chelyabinsk were loaded on the transport ships in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to be sent to repair and upgrade.
Semisubmerged vessel Transshelf owned by the Dutch Dockwise was loaded with Bratsk and Samara. She sailed to the Zvezdochka plant in Severodvinsk along the Northern Sea Route. Chelyabinsk was placed on board the Chinese Hai Yang Shi You. The vessel started out for the Zvezda plant in Primorsky Krai. Obsolete armament, radio electronics and hydroacoustic systems will be replaced by more up-to-date equipment. Then the boats will return to the Kamchatka Peninsula on their own.
Such atomic submarine shipping operations are not new. Transshelf already did the same with the Northern Fleet several years ago. In July 2009 the vessel took two overaged A-ships from Kamchatka and delivered them to Bolshoy Kamen for scrapping. This was the world’s first operation to carry two atomic submarines at the same time with the National Geographic documentary following.
Andrey Malovik, Head of production department of North-Eastern Repair Center in Vilyuchinsk, believes that this shipment is not that difficult, vessels of this type carry even more complex units, such as huge drilling platforms. The only challenge consisted in preparing the fastening system.
The loading technology is as follows: the vessel is submerged like a dock, and a submarine approaches it. The vessel comes up with the cargo staying on the launching blocks. Then the submarine is fixed by mooring lines and special fittings from above. A single boat of Project 971 (Bratsk and Samara) weighs 9-10 thousand tons. But Transshelf can lift up to 40 thousand tons of freight.
In March 2013 Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu visited Kamchatka and was outraged with the fact that the atomic submarine Bratsk had been under repair lying in the dock of North-Eastern Repair Center for five years with the assigned crew and ordered to send the boat to another facility. The boat may have been docked by some commander-in-chief who failed to see into the shipyard potential capable of only minor and medium repairs.
It is worth mentioning that all three submarines sent to upgrade and repair are more than 20 years old. The youngest of them is Samara – floated out on July 15, 1994.
It is interesting that Transshelf has a Russian master but the crew is Dutch. The ship was built in 1987 in a shipyard in Turku (Finland) for the Soviet Union. In 2004 the Russian owner sold Transship to Dockwise Shipping that had been hiring her all this time.