The Zaporizhzhia River Port has finished its passenger navigation with losses of over UAH 1,000,000. The river carriers, having dry-docked their passenger ships and adding up the results for the season, are now pondering whether it is worth reactivating them in 2000 for the new season, for it is more advantageous to keep the ships idle if weighing anchor brings such losses.
Carrying passengers was always a losing business. The financial gap was filled at the expense of freight transport and state subsidies. However, in recent years such piggybacking has been getting more tricky and unstable: freight transport has been shrinking and budgets shrinking.
This year the city’s inhabitants pinned their hopes on their suburban dachas and kitchen gardens mostly located on the bank of the reservoir. In addition to prescribing ticket prices, the government has included into the privilege list forty categories of citizens who do not have to pay, and that is 60% of all passengers. The river carriers do not have the resources to convey such persons free of charge. But our people are used to claiming their “socialist” rights. There were several cases when crowds of dacha owners were almost attacking ships. In such cases, a special purpose police unit had to be called: it is not allowed to take 400 passengers if the boat can board only 200. The dacha owners as well as river carriers are poor both literally and figuratively. For the latter, a sudden change in fuel prices last summer was the last straw. The ruined river carriers were on the point of closing down by October 10, but the city authorities allowed them to do so only after the completion of seasonal work in dacha gardens. This has multiplied the port’s losses.
To all appearances, the attitude the city has assumed toward the Zaporizhzhia River Port can be described by a well-known formula: the rescue of the drowning is the business of those drowning. Talks and promises of subsidies to the river transporters take place every year before navigation, but so far support has been limited to relief from land rent. Two years ago the head of the city administration was actually looking to support the passenger fleet with allocations from the city budget, but for some reason nothing came of it.
Incidentally, The Day has learned that the state of passenger fleets in the ports of Dnipropetrovsk, Mykolayiv, and Kherson is not that grim. The mayors and governors managed to find a way to subsidize passenger fleets, covering all the losses. In addition, Kherson had 24 motor- driven ships in service, and Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia and Mykolayiv nine each. In fact, these ports have different weight categories: for the whole period of navigation Kherson’s river carriers have transported 78,000 passengers, while their colleagues in Zaporizhzhia have around half a million. Now they are trying to estimate how many million hryvnias they should envisage as next year’s loss and where they can get funds to cover it. As yet, there is no answer, but navigation will have to be opened all the same.