To secure vital supplies for Russian salmon farmers
They had been loading pellets into big bags for several days. In the afternoon on Sunday 20 March, they threw the moorings and the freighter “Aleksander Gusev” left Cargill’s feed factory on Bergneset, Northern Norway. The course was set out for the Balsfjorden then northeast and finally towards Ura Guba, deep in a military-enclosed fjord arm, just west of Murmansk.
The fjord arm Ura Guba, or Ura Bay, must not be confused with Polyarny Inlet, which runs towards Severomorsk and Murmansk, immortalized in the opening scene of “The hunt for the Red October”.
Winter is severe here in the north, with dark nights and low sea temperatures, as well as low season for feeding salmon. But, according to the website Vesselfinder, this is the third trip the cargo ship has taken since the end of January. The supplies must be secured. Without feed, salmon cannot be farmed.
Russia must produce its own farmed salmon now. Even Chile and the Faroe Islands have stopped sending their goods there. Most other salmon-producing countries have been subject to import bans to the large Russian market since August 2014.
“Aleksander Gusev”, which sails under the Russian flag and with a Russian crew, is the regular freighter Skretting and Cargill use when transporting feed to the fish farmers on the Kola peninsula. Normally, the feed companies will use more modern and technologically advanced vessels, preferably with Norwegian crews, but they cannot enter the facilities of the farming customers in northwestern Russia, especially not after Russia attacked neighboring Ukraine.
The war is now raging in its fourth week, with heavy casualties on both sides. Among the weapons used against air bases, apartment blocks and artillery positions are cruise missiles, fired from warships in the Black Sea.
Ura Guba is located a few kilometers south of the top secret submarine base Vidyayevo. At that site are Akula, Sierra and Oscar II nuclear submarines. One of these, “Kursk”, which sank in the Barents Sea in August 2000, was an Oscar II class.
Close to the Kremlin
In Ura Guba, Russian Aquaculture, Russia’s largest salmon farmer, is located. The company’s largest owner, the Vorbobyev family, has close political ties to Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Without the blessing of the Kremlin and the Northern Fleet, one can only forget to run a business in the fjord arms between the Norwegian border and Murmansk.
Kola is strategically very important for Russia, especially since the peninsula has ice-free ports, which have historically been in short supply and an Achilles’ heel for the great power in the east.
The fact that Western feed companies, such as Cargill and Skretting, supply fish feed to Russia, which has a ban on imports of Norwegian salmon, is controversial. The competitor BioMar has already closed its business operations in Russia, along with a large number of other multinational companies, including Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Apple, Nike and IKEA, to name a few.
Cargill, which is the USA’s largest privately owned company, has not yet confirmed to SalmonBusiness whether they actually send feed to the farmers at Kola.
Cargill has previously stated that they want to step down in Russia, but also said that “food is a basic human right and should never be used as a weapon” .
Russia is well supplied with food – by virtue of being the world’s third largest grain producer.
“Aleksander Gusev” is expected to arrive in Ura Guba at lunchtime on Thursday 24 March, according to the AIS log on Marine Traffic.