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Maritime transportation plays an important role in Russian transit, but the country's geography and climate limit the capacity of shipping. Many Russian rivers run from south to north rather than from east to west, constraining their use during the Russian winters.
Russia's major ports providing access to the Baltic Sea are St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad, and Novorossiysk and Sochi are the main Black Sea ports (see fig. 12). Vladivostok, Nakhodka, Magadan, and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy account for the bulk of maritime transportation on the Pacific coast. The largest Arctic port, Murmansk, maintains an ice-free harbor despite its location on the northern shore of the Kola Peninsula. In 1995 Russia's merchant marine had about 800 ships with a gross tonnage of more than 1,000, of which half are standard cargo vessels, about 100 oil tankers, and eighty container ships. Russia also owns 235 ships that are over 1,000 tons and sail under foreign registry. In 1991 the merchant marine carried 464 million tons of cargo.
Navigable inland waterways extend 101,000 kilometers, of which 16,900 kilometers are man-made and 60,400 are navigable at night. Boats of the Russian River Fleet do most of the inland shipping, which accounted for 514 million tons of cargo in 1991. The Russian government has made efforts to decentralize control over water transportation and to separate control of liners from ports.
Natural gas and petroleum pipelines play a crucial role in Russia's economy, both in distributing fuel to domestic industrial consumers and in supporting exports to Europe and countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS--see Glossary). Their complex network connects production regions with virtually all of Russia's centers of population and industry. Pipelines are especially important because of the long distances between Siberian oil and gas fields and Russia's European industrial centers as well as countries to the west.
In 1993 Russia had 48,000 kilometers of pipeline carrying crude oil, 15,000 kilometers for petroleum products, and 140,000 kilometers for natural gas. In recent decades, the natural gas lines have expanded at a much faster rate than the crude oil lines. The main natural gas pipeline, one of the Soviet Union's largest international trade projects, connects the natural gas fields of northern Siberia with most of the countries of Western Europe. Completed in 1984, the line passes nearly 4,000 kilometers across the Ural Mountains, the Volga River, and many other natural obstacles to connect Russian lines with the European system.
Also completed in the early 1980s, the Northern Lights natural gas line runs from the Vuktyl field in the Republic of Komi to Eastern Europe. The Orenburg pipeline was built in the late 1970s to bring gas from the Orenburg field in Russia and the Karachaganak field in northern Kazakstan to Eastern Europe.
Many of Russia's major oil pipelines parallel gas lines. A trunk oil line runs eastward from the Volga-Ural fields to Irkutsk on Lake Baikal, westward from those fields into Ukraine and Latvia, and southwest to connect with the North Caucasus oil fields and refineries; the line is joined by a line from the oil center at Surgut in the West Siberian Plain.
Data as of July 1996