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The “Nevskaya Zastava” ice boat is on duty in Neva’s central water zone.


This season the “Nevskaya Zastava” tug-boat, which patrols rivers and canals of St. Petersburg every winter, has already saved the city from a flooding. It breaks the ice pile-ups and water levels are receding.


Extreme situation, though, do not happen on a daily basis. Dmitriy Kopytov found out what the everyday shift of its crew looks like. 

Dmitriy Kopytov, reporter: “Nowadays, the ice situation in Neva’s water zone is more or less calm, but the “Nevskaya Zastava” tug boat is still on duty. Today it went on a haul not to let the canal which ensures passage of water from the Neva into the Gulf of Finland freeze. A week ago the boat literally saved St. Petersburg from a flooding. A gigantic ice jam grew up in the vicinity of the Finland railway bridge”

This un-pretty term is used to describe a large pile-ups of ice. It may cause floods. In St. Petersburg, the Obukhovo area is where flooding risk arises quite frequently. But for 5 years already, the multi-functional ice boat the “Nevskaya Zastava” has been safeguarding the Northern Capital. This year, despite the winter’s beginning was quite warm, it already had to act. 

Alexander Bilmak, shift captain at the “Nevskaya Zastava” ice boat: “We came to this spot below the Finlandskiy bridge and started breaking the ice. One step at a time. 150 meters over there had been problematic, but then it went smoothly, all ok” 

Giving a little scare to birds, the boat can pass even under an unraised bridge. Not all ice boats can boast this feature. And that is down to a special build of its captain’s bridge  - it can ascend or descend according to conditions. Every day the “Nevskaya Zastava” travels for tens of kilometers. St. Petersburg’s picturesque sights are replaced by industrial scenery. 

Vyacheslav Myglan, temporary head, department of emergency works in St. Petersburg government’s environmental committee: “Its main route is the central, historic part of the city. But in the ice-jamming period it stretches to the Ust-Izhora area, making a total of 30 kilometers”

During another day shift, the crew receives an unexpected mission. The captain was told that an oil spill was detected nearby the Sverdlovskaya embankment. 

The boat is multi-functional. It can be used to remove oil spills and even to extinguish fires. 

Viktor Suvorov, shift captain of the “Nevskaya Zastava” ice boat: “We don’t see an oil spill. But we still have to check, make sure and take steps if needed. We can cover it with a sorbent to gather the oil. Or use our oil-clearing equipment to remove it. But now we see that it was a false alarm – there’s no spill here. We are always ready for our missions”. 

The boat will carry its mission until May, when there’s no more ice on the rivers. But there’s plenty of work for the crew during summer too. The boat must be maintained constantly so that it doesn’t fail in the winter. This year weather bureau says there will be no more winter floods in St. Petersburg. But the ice boat will be on duty in the Neva water zone every day, to be on the safe side.