According to Mikhail Motsak, the First Deputy Plenipotentiary of the President in the Northwestern Federal District, if Russia is to preserve her national security, sea transportation must be developed. The statement was made at a session of the coordinating council for military command and the liquidation of the consequences of emergency situations and natural disasters. The deputy said Russia's sea transportation was in a crisis condition. According to Mr. Motsak, as of the beginning of 2002, the combined deadweight of Russia's merchant sea fleet amounted to 11.5 million tonnes, 58.8% of all these ships sailing under foreign flags, just 18.5% in 1992. The unfavourable climate for investors and the existing tax and custom legislations drives ship owners out of Russia. The average age of ships registered at Russian ports is 20 years, which, besides operating difficulties, results in the banning of Russian ships from a number of foreign ports.
In 2001, of 110.6 million tonnes of Russian cargoes, 49 million tonnes were trans-loaded in the ports of the Baltic states and Finland. The coming into operation of the oil and coal terminals in Primorsk and Ust-Luga will, of course, change this ratio, yet the fact remains that the existing Russian legislation is outdated and incapable of ending the crisis in the sea transportation industry.
Forest fires in Siberia have been raging for three months already. They have become a disaster not only of Russian, but of global scale. The fires have already scorched 12 million hectares of land