The development of navigation on the Danube began in the 19th century. In 1834 Izmail merchants owned 20 vessels, Reni merchants – 5 fleet units. To carry the goods abroad using the shortest way the transport of a small cargo capacity was used, as the Kiliya arm of the Danube did not allow the ships over 6 feet in draft to pass (1 feet is 33 cm).
In the middle of the 19th century the rise of the Danube ports is observed. Only in 1846 Izmail was visited by 138 vessels, among them 50 Russian, 45 Turkish, 38 Greek, 8 Austrian, 2 British. Russia's defeat in the Crimean War (1853-1856) became the main damper on the Danube trade. For 20 years Russia was actually eliminated from the Danube. After the victory in the Russian-Turkish war in 1877-1878 the state border of Russia was demarcated along the Kiliya arm of the Danube and along the Prut.
In the early 80s of the 19th century the Russian government faced with the challenge of creation of a steamship company on the Danube. On July 3, 1881 “Regulations on the urgent cargo and passenger shipping traffic between the cities of Odessa and Izmail calling at Kiliya and Reni” were enacted. The document noted that “...Yuriy Gagarin undertakes to keep up the correct cargo and passenger shipping traffic by means of m/v “Olga” belonging to him...”. Every two weeks the ship of the entrepreneur made urgent cruises to Izmail, then to Kiliya, from Kiliya to Reni, from Reni to Izmail and through the Sulina channel to Odessa. The ship's speed was 7 knots. The second ship owned by Yuriy Gagarin, that is “Fyodor”, in 1883 renamed as “Izmail” made 18 voyages to the port of Reni.
Yuriy Gagarin was the pioneer in establishing the regular Danube trade. His aim was noble, that is to open a gate to the Danube for the Russian merchant fleet. He lashed out all his funds on a new, yet unknown business.
The regular inshore shipping between the Russian Danube ports was gradually established. But the development of the capitalist production, the increasing output of products required new markets for the goods. The close trade relations with the Danube countries were to be set up. Gagarin could not clench this matter alone. His personal finances were not enough.
In 1883 the business began by Gagarin developed into a trade company. 125 years ago the first Russian steamship company “Prince Yuriy Gagarin and Co.” appeared. Since November 8 (21), 1883, for the first time in the history of the national Danube trade shipping, Russia establishes regular international trade relations with the Danube countries.
To hold up on the Danube banks at the competitive struggle with the shipping companies of foreign states, a powerful trade fleet was necessary to have. That's why some years later, in 1886, the steamship company by Prince Gagarin was reorganized into a joint-stock company named “the Black Sea-Danube shipping company”. This company opened a gate for Russian goods along the great European river and proved the profitability of the shipping traffic on the Danube.
On October 14, 1944 by the decision of the State Defense Committee of the USSR, to provide the Danube traffic of the Soviet armies and equipment and also cargoes for national economic purposes, the Soviet Danube state shipping company was established in Izmail.
Beginning its activity in severe war conditions, the shipping company passed a range of stages in its development:
- reconstruction of the captured damaged and sunken vessels salvaged from the bottom of the river;
- fleet modernization;
- almost complete renovation of transport river vessels;
- creation of its own maritime fleet.
Increase in turnover, development of the Danube shipping traffic required the shipping company to be equipped with brand new vessels. In the 50s and 60s 75 new tugboats and push boats of “Vladivostok”, “Kiev”, “Moskva”, “Riga”, “Ivanovo”, “Korneuburg” types were built; in the 70s and 80s the powerful push boats of “Sergey Avdeenkov”, “Zaporozhye”, “Leningrad” types and 19 self-propelled dry cargo vessels of “Kapitan Antipov” series were added to the fleet of the shipping company. At the same time, the old fleet was taken out of service. In these years the quick replenishment of the non self-propelled fleet continued due to building of tank and dry cargo barges at the Kiliya shipbuilding and repair yard, and also at the shipyards of Austria, Romania, Bulgaria, altogether over 1300 units.
The vessels of the shipping company transported annually 70% of all the Danube cargoes, mainly metal, grain, oar, equipment which made the Soviet Danube shipping company a monopolist on the river.
In 1957 in the Kiliya part of the Danube delta, a deep-water canal Prorva was constructed which aided development of the maritime traffic and UDP fleet.
The shipping company reached maritime foreign lines in the late 50s, when the sea vessels of “Tisa” type came into service. In the 60s the sea dry cargo vessels of “Tartu”, “Elva”, “Fryazino”, “Shenkursk”, “Novyy Donbass”, “Inzhener Belov”, “Baltiyskiy”, “Aleksandr Dovzhenko” types (altogether about 30 vessels), and in the 70s 35 tank and dry cargo vessels of “Kishinev”, “Baltika”, “Altay”, “Sosnovets”, “Rostok”, “Yunyy partizan”, “Vasiliy Shukshin” types were built. The cargo-carrying capacity of the sea self-propelled fleet amounted to 300 000 ton.
On May 19, 1978 on the basis of the inter-governmental agreement of four countries, that is Bulgaria, Hungary, Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia, an international business shipping company “Interlighter” was established; the shipping companies BRP, MAHART, SDP and ČSPD became its partners. Direct cargo transportation in lighters between the Danube countries and the countries of South and Southeast Asia was within the scope of its activity.
Since 1984 the lighter-carrier transport technological system was in place operated by “Boris Polevoy”, “Pavel Antokolskiy”, “Anatoliy Zheleznyakov” and “Nikolay Markin” lighters. The system was used in the following directions: ports of the Black and Mediterranean Seas, Middle East, North and East Africa.
During the period of its existence (from December 1978 till September 1995) the sea vessels of ISC “Interlighter” named “Yulius Fuchik” and “Tibor Samueli” made 252 voyages on the Danube — India – Pakistan line and the Danube – the Mekong line. The traffic volume for these years amounted to 6,4 million ton, including the export to the Danube countries in 4,3 million ton.
In the 80s the Soviet Danube shipping company was a large integrated enterprise; the cargo fleet alone numbered over 1000 units with about 1 million deadweight ton. The SDP provided transportation of foreign trade cargoes, foreign-owned in the Danube basin cargoes, and also transportation to the ports of the Black, Mediterranean, Red Seas, Southeast Asia, West and North Europe.
The annual traffic volume amounted to 11,5 – 12 million ton. The vessels of our shipping company visited annually over 150 ports in the various countries worldwide. The passenger sea and river vessels carried out the transportation of Soviet and foreign guests. The passenger travel line “From the Alps to the Black Sea”, having great popularity, proved the commercial viability of passenger traffic for the first time in the USSR maritime fleet system. This line was operated by the river motor vessels “Amur”, “Dunay” and the sea vessels “Belinskiy”, “Osetiya”. With the route extended up to Istanbul (Turkey), modern comfortable vessels swung into line: “Volga”, “Dnepr”, “Ukraina”, “Moldavia” and a sea motor vessel “Ayvazovskiy”.
Local liner shipment was operated by the hydrofoil vessels “Raketa”, “Voshod”, “Meteor” (one sea vessel, namely “Kometa”), leisure boats and lake boat buses, since the 80s “Izmail” and “Izmail-2” were brought into use.
In 1983 the Soviet Danube shipping company was awarded an Order of Peoples’ Friendship.
In the 90s the fleet of the Ukrainian Danube shipping company got a range of six sea vessels built in Portugal. The first-in-class m/v «Izmail”, the first vessel which came into commission flying the flag of sovereign Ukraine, was recognized as the best of its class by an authoritative maritime publication “Lloyd List” in 1990. The main cargoes of the maritime traffic are metal, grain, lumber, fertilizers, citrus fruit.
During the next years the UDP river fleet got 25 modern nonself-propelled vessels, these are barge sections of SL and SLG types, tankers of SLT types built at the Kiliya shipbuilding and repair yard. The project was carried out on the basis of retro-reconstruction of the unclaimed DM lighter fleet.
The framework documents certifying the high quality of work of the shipping company are: ISM Code certificate — safety management certificate and ISO 9002 certificate of conformity obtained first in Ukraine.
In 2001 the OJSC “Ukrainian Danube shipping company” was the first in the country to be assigned a status of the national transport operator.
The priority area of activity of the Danube shipping company is the provision of transport services to natural and legal persons, quality-assured transportation, convenient and safe delivery of cargoes and passengers. The major line of the company is focused on the satisfaction of wants and interests of customers, as well as enhancing long-term cooperation.
The PJSC “UDP” is one of the largest shipping companies not only in Ukraine but also in Western Europe, which has proved its authority as a reliable partner and an unquestionable leader in the provision of transport services and maintenance of appropriate level of traffic safety during its existence. This fact is amply demonstrated by numerous national and international awards, among them “Zolota Fortuna”, certificate given to the OJSC “UDP” being in the top list of the best companies of Ukraine, category in the “Golden book of the Ukrainian Elite”.