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2013-05-31

Vadim Novinsky,
President of ZAO "Smart Holding"

Ukrainian shipyards at shipwreck

Shipbuilding industry in Ukraine, with its powerful industrial potential received as a legacy from the Soviet Union, is going through a rough time.



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Over the past ten years shipbuilding companies have been loosing their positions not only on international, but also on domestic market.

The situation is very serious. Employment level in Ukrainian shipbuilding industry is declining at a dangerous rate from 58,700 people in 2000 to 27,400 people in 2012. Experts note that in addition to these figures, there are indirect evidence allowing to draw conclutions as to the status of this strategic industry and the implications of its decline. For instance, according to expert estimates, 65-75% in the price of the vessel built in Ukraine is the cost of equipment and machinery imported from abroad.

According to experts, at present the production capacity of shipyards is loaded by an average of 30-50% and does not go down completely only thanks to small random orders. However, mere negligence, opportunism or other factors invisible at the first glance make businesses in the industry lose even the little income they get, along with potential customers.

Redistribution of Ukrainian building industry is over, but the echoes of commercial games are still affecting leading market participants. According to Victor Lissitzky, who is the first vice-president of Ukrsudprom, the Association of Shipbuilders of Ukraine, one of the most important industrial complexes is now going through something very much like slow agony. Several former leading market participants are slowly sinking to the bottom. Among them there are Kherson Shipyard, Black Sea Shipbuilding Plant and Okean. It is noteworthy that it was their capacities that used to be the engine for shipbuilding industry of the country. The redistribution of property, into which Smart-Holding group of companies drew the shipbuilding plants, has a negative bearing on the fate of shipbuilders. Difficult situation around the enterprizes has forced highly qualified experts who had worked in the shipbuilding industry for decades to leave, and it is still hard to attacked new workers to the plants. In 2012, Aleksandr Yurkov, the CEO of Smart Maritime Group that is part of Smart-Holding, informed reporters that the group is negotiating several large contracts for the construction of ships. It is highly doubtful that the ships will actually sail off some day. The main reason for such doubts is the future of shipbuilding assets belonging to Smart-Holding since in the current situation they might lose all capacities.

The Black Sea Shipyard (BSS), specializing in the construction of tankers and tugboats, has already survived several crises. In 2003, despite protests from shipbuilders the entity was sold to a company controlled by notorious Russian businessmen, namely to the Churkin brothers. Entrepreneurs had nothing to do with the industry, so their only goal in this purchase seems to be to capture the big and easy money.

The unstable situation associated with a decrease in the number of orders and delayed wages, even forced the staff to seek help from the authorities. Suddenly the plant became part of Smart-Holding and many people hoped to see active measures resultant in economic growth of the enterprise. Hopes were dashed when it became apparent that BSS became nothing but a lead character in the plays staged by the owner of Smart Holding Vadim Novinsky. Last year Realtinvestservis construction company filed a lawsuit asking to commence proceedings in the bankruptcy case for Black Sea Shipyard. The reason was the outstanding 4-year-old bill amounting to 440.5 thousand UAH. The fact that Realtinvestservis is located on site of Kherson Shipyard, another Smart-Holding entity, was quite disturbing. Many people recall a similar scenario that took place in August 2008, when rumour had it that BSS could have been taken over by Vadim Novinsky.

Okean, a stable company once, found itself in the eye of a storm of scandals. A constant change of leadership at a shipyard can not contribute to  stability of the enterprise. Arrears of wages, job cuts, a drop in the number of orders, - all these were just the tip of the iceberg in the list of problems the plant in Nikolaevsk had. And once again it was surprising to everyone how an organization controlled by an oligarch Vadim Novinsky could be on the verge of bankruptcy. More drama came about when the plant began to be known under the humiliating title "kidok", or ditcher. In spite of contract obligations, Okean management refused to pay out the wages to personnel of Schit-M security company. According to its director Vladimir Pavlenko, the amount of the debt is about a million hryvnia.

Nibulon Ltd also found itself hostage to opportunistic actions of Smart-Holding. Head of the deceived company Aleksey Vadatursky said that the contracts for the construction of two tugboats at Okean have not been fulfilled, the contract terminated, and the metal Nibulon had purchased for the construction was not returned to the company. It appears, ditching business partners gradually became a habit at Smart-Holding.

It is quite obvious that Novinsky chose a rather strange way of doing business, taking into account the crisis situation of the entire shipbuilding industry. Redemption of fixed assets of enterprises, followed by the bankruptcy of the latter is the final blow at the already faltering economy. Luckily, Black Sea Shipyard so far has some orders. Until recently, the partners were ready to sign a contract with it and maintain close cooperation. However, as it became known to our correspondent, a number of agreements followed the now-familiar pattern and were not fulfilled, leaving ships unfinished.

According to the sales manager of the shipbuilding plant, who wished to remain anonymous, the entity is prone to negligence and connivance. "I do not know what the reason was, but we have repeatedly deceived our customers, knowing that the time obligations stipulated in the contract will not be met. Money discussed during negotiations is too tempting. The management of Smart-Holding turns a blind eye to such activities. No one cares about the reputation anymore. Consequenses are predictable. We have already lost major customers. "

While experts analyze the situation and try to pull the industry out of a deep crisis, Ukrainian shipyards continue to sink to the bottom. Okean has already hit its bottom...

Pavel Vlasenko

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