The 30-40s: the glorious pages of history.
By the end of the 1930s, the international situation in Europe became extremely hard. This fact influenced on the freight market, on which already in the summer of 1939 was a sharp reduction in the supply of tonnage, which was the reason for the increase in freight rates from the Soviet side. At the beginning of World War II, transactions on the freight market almost completely ceased and were resumed only by the middle of September in 1939 at significantly higher rates. Owners chartered by “Sovfracht” before the war refused to fulfill the charter and insisted on the cancellation of the concluded deals. The destabilization of the market was exacerbated by the violation of shipping, caused by the sea blockade, carried out by Britain and France. Military actions on sea communications led to the destruction of about 1 million tons of tonnage (as of December 31, 1939) both belligerent and neutral countries. The freight market during this period was also characterized by high decentralization and, in fact, represented several independent markets, formed from local freight sections.
One of the glorious pages in the history of JSC “Sovfracht” is a Karskaya operation, truly unique and unprecedented in scope and complexity. In 1939 JSC “Sovfracht” was to ensure the export of a large volume of Siberian forest through Igarka and the Kara Sea. A short period of navigation in the port of Igarka created a special complexity. The Main Directorate of the Northern Sea Route ordered to send the entire foreign fleet from Igarka on September 22-23 due to the early freezing of the Kara Sea. In this case, it would be necessary to ship the steamers "Vaalhaven" and "Clintoniya" with a significant underload. Paying attention to the order of Moscow and the fact of a real threat of ice damage to the ships, the employees of “Sovfracht” immediately convened a meeting with the participation of the director of the Forest Combine , the manager of Sevpolyarles and the head of the port. The chief of the wiring of the western sector was sent a telegram requesting permission to delay the steamships until September 30, promising their constant 6-hour readiness to exit in case of deterioration of the ice situation. The answer to the telegram was positive.
With the Forest Combine, an agreement was reached on carrying out round-the-clock loading of steamships. Loading was carried out simultaneously from two sides without any break. Two premiums were allocated: for loading the "Clintoniya" for 5 days – 2 500 rubles. and "Vaalhaven" for 6 days – 5 000 rubles. Both ships completed the loading on September 30 and, taking a full load, were sent on a flight. However, the meteorological conditions of navigation in 1939 left much to be desired. Very early autumn frosts created a dangerous ice situation. Soviet ships that left Igarka before October 6, were ice-clogged, and in order to bring them to clean water, it took great efforts of the icebreakers. It was done only in the second half of October. The Karskaya operation gave invaluable experience and once again confirmed the high professionalism of the employees of JSC “Sovfracht”, working with maximum dedication and dedicated to their work. The volume of the exported forest to 618 standards exceeded the volume outlined in the orders.
The 1930s were the period of active development of the Soviet transport system, the most important role of which was played by sea transport. The XVIII Congress of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks), held in Moscow on March 10-21, 1939, determined that "the most important task of transport is the regulation of cargo turnover planning with the aim of completely reducing long-distance railway transportations, liquidation of counter-current and inefficient transportation and further increasing the specific weight of water and motor transport in the country's freight turnover." It was envisaged to increase the workload of sea transport by 38%. At the beginning of the Great Patriotic War in the system of the People's Commissariat of the marine fleet there were 51 sea ports, 14 shipping companies and 27 ship repair enterprises, 2 higher educational institutions, 870 ships with a total deadweight of more than 2 million tons.
At the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, there were difficult moments to the soviet people. The volumes of chartering fell down, and since July 1941 almost completely ceased. For example, the total amount of chartering for inotonnage in 1941 amounted to 17 shipreys with a total tonnage of 62,6 thousand tons (compared to 1940, a decrease of 97,4%). In the structure of JSC “Sovfracht” there were serious changes: the collective was reduced from 51 to 13 people, of which 3 people were sent to work in the northern ports, 5 people were sent to the militia. In August 1941, in order to organize the duplication of work and fulfill the tasks of the Association, four people established a branch of “Sovfracht” in Ulyanovsk, where the work on keeping the files of ship-owners, brokerage, agent and bunker foreign firms was resume. Work was also done on the selection and analysis of information from daily TASS reports on issues of world merchant shipping.
Soviet marine transport was actively involved in foreign trade transportations, with the help of it, the USSR maintained military and economic relations with allied countries - Great Britain, USA, Canada. “Sovfracht” was assigned the task of conducting foreign exchange settlements for freight on the transport of imported cargoes on foreign ships and export to Soviet ships, calculations for disbursement expenses (maintenance costs of the ship during its stay at the port), maintenance and record keeping of Lend- Liza after the signing of an agreement between the USSR and the United States.
The main routes for supply of equipment, materials and food were:
1. Northern (ports of Arkhangelsk and Murmansk)
2. Pacific (the port of Vladivostok)
3. Trans-Iranian (through the Persian Gulf and Iran)
These routes provided more than 90% of all deliveries. The northern direction was the fastest way, but also the most dangerous. The first northern convoy ("Dervish") arrived from Iceland to Arkhangelsk on August 31, 1941. In the period since 1941 to 1945, the Soviet Union accepted more than 40 Arctic convoys. However, the northern way was systematically attacked: ships were attacked by aircraft, submarines and surface ships of the enemy. The USSR and its allies suffered huge losses. The crews of Soviet transport ships, the arms of which usually amounted to 1-2 guns and several machine guns, exhibited true heroism and self-sacrifice. Each voyage was like a feat: the sailors were ready to fully defend the priceless cargo on board, and did everything possible and impossible to deliver it to their destination.
Due to the difficulties in the defense of ships at the crossing in the Barents Sea, the defeat of the PQ-17 convoy (June-July 1942) and the large losses of the PQ-18 convoy (August 1942), the allies suspended the dispatch of new convoys. In the fall of 1942, “Sovfracht” organized single ship voyages (without direct security) across the North Atlantic. Such sailing in the conditions of the polar day was carried out by Soviet transport ships "Friedrich Engels", "Belomorkanal", "Decabrist" (steamer "Decabrist" left Iceland on October 26, 1942 and was the first Soviet transport, delivering cargo on Lend-Lease in the port of Murmansk ).
The Pacific route provided a half of the Lend-Lease supplies (47,1% of the total tonnage). However, transportations were fraught with great difficulties and danger. Soviet ships in the sea and ports of South-East Asia were subjected to forcible inspection and attacks from Japan, which controls all the unfrozen straits. The use of the Trans-Iranian route became possible after the entry of Soviet and British troops into Iran. The first deliveries along this route began in November 1941. Cargoes went to the USSR from the ports of the Persian Gulf by air transport and by water transport. The Caspian Shipping Company transported a significant amount of cargo. With the allies' opening of the second front in France (June 1944), supplies on this channel went on the decline.
The work to ensure the delivery of foreign trade cargoes to the USSR during the struggle against Nazi Germany is a glorious page in the history of JSC “Sovfracht”, which used all possible sea routes to maintain contact with allies separated from us by seas and oceans. Employees of JSC “Sovfracht” demonstrated themselves during the war years not only as selfless and persistent workers, but also as brave defenders of their Fatherland - they worthily and bravely fought on the fronts of the Great Patriotic War, and high state awards mark their merits.