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Viking river cruise ship runs aground on Russia’s Volga

July 10, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email


The four-deck river cruise ship Viking Helgi, carrying 292 foreign tourists, has run aground on Russia’s Volga river, exposing a deeper – or perhaps shallower – problem affecting sections of the famous river.

Viking Helgi ran aground in low water in the Rybinsk reservoir, roughly halfway between Moscow and St Petersburg, Russia Today reported.

The ship operates two-week voyages between the two cities, plying the Volga and its tributaries, the Russian news service said on its website.

Viking Helgi became stuck in the mud for a short time in low water. Reports said 292 passengers were aboard, along with 100 crew. Emergency services told Russian news agencies that no one was hurt during the brief grounding.

The nationality of the tourists was not disclosed. The Viking River Cruises site says a ship of that name “boasting gorgeous staterooms and comfortable accommodations” operates a “Waterways of the Tsars” itinerary, Moscow to St Petersburg, 13 days and 10 tours, from AUD 7395.

Russian emergency services blamed the grounding on a steering malfunction, saying the problem was quickly fixed and the vessel continued its voyage soon afterwards.

The incident was just a minor event on Europe’s increasingly crowded waterways.

A vastly more seriously accident happened on 29 May 2019 on the Danube River, when the river cruise ship Viking Sigyn collided with a Hungarian sightseeing boat, the Hableany (Mermaid), operated by the Panorama Boat company.

Twenty-five of the 33 South Koreans aboard the Hableany have been confirmed dead, as well as two of the Hungarian crew. One South Korean remains missing and seven were rescued.

IN RUSSIA, locals have been reporting for years that sections of the Volga are becoming shallower. Following a dryer-than-usual spring, residents of Kazan, Ulyanovsk, Samara, Nizhny Novgorod and other cities built on the Volga sounded the alarm in early May.

Russia’s most important river was switched to “manual control” some time ago, with the building of nine hydroelectric power plants along the river course.

The Volga is one of the longest rivers in the world, longest river in Europe “and the most beautiful”, according to Russians. It is 3530 kilometres long, similar to the distance from Australia’s north coast to its south coast.

The Volga flows through central Russia and into the Caspian Sea, and is widely regarded as the national river of Russia, being an important river for both Slavs and Turks.

Eleven of the twenty largest cities of Russia, including the capital, Moscow, are located in the Volga’s drainage basin.

The Volga is “as if one could see the entire depth of the Russian soul in the waves”, the presenter of the video clip above comments.

Viking Helgi at Northern River Terminal in Moscow. Wikipedia

Russian professor Alexander Lisin, an expert on the river, adds: “What is now happening to the water level of the Volga is an illustrative example of the fact that the development of river transport is kind of hostage to whether there’s water or not.”

Hard to argue with that.

Written by Peter Needham

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