Empire Of The Ring Chapter 256
It was a rather short trip, but everyone seemed to be blessed by it.
Youngho and his family visited only several big cities in Germany this time, and the kids loved sightseeing rather than going to museums since they loved to shop around downtowns of big cities. Fatima was the same. She loved going on shopping.
While touring around, Youngho searched for what could be applied to the Autonomous State of Arirang. His favorite city was Freiburg. The city was uniquely regulated to be an eco-friendly place. No vehicles were seen around residential places. They were all parked in the outskirts of the city.
The city’s policy allowed it to reduce air pollution and car accidents. Also, streets and alleys were spared for children, so that they could freely run around. Each roof of the houses had a solar water heater attached, the trees and small plants were planted in any empty spaces for air purification purposes.
Each house also had a rainwater reservoir and any wastewater had to go through a purification process to be reused. It was quite amazing that people strictly saved water even though the city had plenty of precipitation. Youngho never thought of such a thing in Kazakhstan. He was stunned that he had been letting go 200 millimeters of precipitation a year. When he saw that the city recycled food waste to gain energy and compost for farming, he could not help but let out an exclamation.
Youngho thought that this should be the way how Arirang Farm should be if he wanted to prepare for the future. He admired how people of an advanced country like Germany could be so frugal. Their efforts to leave a clean environment for their descendants were quite surprising.
To him, who was living in a semi-deserted place, everything he saw was enlightening. He gained a new hope that if Arirang Farm could start green revolution first, the semi-deserted land could turn into green land one day.
“You should’ve seen the ships following behind us. It was a marvelous view.”
“Wasn’t it just easy to break the ice because it was thin?”
“No, ships with weak engines could not even proceed into thin ice. Man, you have no idea how many vodka bottles those captains sent me. I feel like I’m already drunk just by thinking about drinking them.”
Jong-il bragged about how the shipping company’s 3,000-ton class ice breaker freighter could get to the Port of Atyrau by breaking the ice around it.
Due to the sudden drop of temperature, the seaway was frozen and ships that were moored at an outer port nearby could not get to into the Port, but ‘The Arirang’ that had gone out to deliver wine to Volgograd was on its way back just in time, loaded with building materials. It made a route for other vessels by breaking the ice with its body.
Now that The Arirang had made the seaway for other ships in the winter, the word would spread quickly. The northern part of Caspian Sea was always frozen during winter and no one could sail around the area at this time of the year. Knowing this situation, Youngho had ordered vessels that could work as an icebreaker in advance.
Up until now, it was quite ordinary for captains that once the ice was frozen, the ships would go on a break until it melted. The degree of salinity of the Caspian was very low, so it was the same as a river freezing up during the winter. It was not that people did not attempt to break the ice before, but they stopped trying because there were not a huge amount of goods being traded around the area and it was not worth to spend the cost to break the ice.
Icebreakers were only used to go around the downstream of the Volga River in Russia and to deliver necessities to the oil exploration ship. Except for those, any other transport of goods were stopped in the Caspian Sea in the mid-winter. During this time, when people needed to transport goods urgently, it was normal to deliver them through a long route by land, but Youngho had turned that custom upside down.
“I asked the captains who followed behind us. They said that they usually waited at the outer port until the sea is completely frozen and then they walk to the port on the frozen sea. Do you think this is possible in the 21st century? Man, I’m not sure if they’re just relaxed people or stupid.”
The freighter was not sturdy enough to go to polar regions, but it could easily work as an icebreaker in the Ural River and the Caspian Sea unless extreme cold weather continued and ice was frozen to a thickness of more than one meter. To secure the sea route in case of severe weather, the car ferry and the freighter were sailing around the Arirang Farm to break the ice.
Since they were only breaking the ice so that ice would not thicken, little ships could not sail around freely, but the Port was still able to function as a port. Because of Youngho’s effort, transport of goods around the downstream of the Ural River and the Port of Atyrau were freely circulating even in the winter.
There was a group that welcomed the fact that the Port’s function was revived. It was the Kazakh Navy. The Navy did not try to break the ice on the sea until now, even though it had stronger ships. Now that Arirang Farm had broken the ice for them, it was convenient for the Navy to get back to work around the port.
Two missile boats of the Kazakh Navy moored at Arirang Wharf.
The boats were under the guidance of the lieutenant commander, Victor Jun. They followed the icebreaker freighter that just returned to the farm. He had contacted Youngho in advance to visit the farm, and Youngho was eagerly waiting for him.
“Lieutenant Commander Jun, you’ve gone through the trouble to sail around in this cold weather.”
“Mr. Lee. It’s been a while.”
He took a bow courteously and it made Youngho feel awkward.
Although a naval Commander was not in a position to bow his head to anyone, Commander Jun had so much respect for Youngho since he was the one who could meet the president in private and he was the practical owner of the autonomous region. He could not treat Youngho like a common person. Moreover, Youngho was a Korean businessman who helped a lot of his people, Koryoins. So, in his perspective, Youngho was quite a respectable person.
“I heard you’re staying here tonight?”
“Yes. If I may, I’d like to stay here for the night under your consent. I also wanted to discuss something with you.”
“Commander Jun, someone like you is always welcomed by me. Please call all of your men to Arirang Hotel. I’ll treat them well tonight.”
Since they came to the farm, Youngho wanted to provide them lodging instead of letting them stay on their narrow ships. Besides, it would all come back to him if he did a favor to others first. This was his business philosophy.
“Mr. Lee. I’m immensely thankful for your hospitality on behalf of my soldiers.”
“I just put more silverware on the table for your men. Please come anytime you want. I’ll always have food and a place to stay for you. Aren’t we on the same boat after all?”
Now that the farm’s Countryside Force was given a mission to patrol around the water with the Navy, the two parties were indeed on the same boat from now on.
“I feel less guilty now since you say that.”
“I don’t feel like you’re staying just to get to know each other. If you have anything on your mind, please don’t be afraid to say it.”
Commander Jun seemed to beat around the bush, so Youngho openly said it first. Although the commander was in the position to control the seaway of the autonomous region, it was still hard for him to ask Youngho a favor.
“The Navy would like to charter an icebreaker from you for the winter, if possible.”
“You’re trying to break the ice around the Port of Atyrau.”
“Yes. Not only that, but we’d also like to break the coastal waters to get to Port Aktau.”
Since Port Aktau was located on the Mangyshlak Peninsula, it was a strategically important place for Kazakhstan. It was a foothold city of oil development in Kazakhstan and a port that exported resources. Also, the port was a gateway to the Arystan oil field of the Korea National Oil Corporation and had many Korean visitors.
“So, it’ll be convenient for you if ice around the Port of Atyrau and the coastal waters nearby is cleared out?”
Because Aktau was in the midway between Baku and the Port of Atyrau, it was a port that never froze in the winter.
“That’s true. I didn’t want to bother the autonomous state every time. So, I requested it to the Ministry of National Defense and I was approved to charter an icebreaker. But when I asked the commissioner Kim Chun, he told me that it was impossible to charter a vessel for the long term, due to frequent transportation of goods. This is why I came to see you, Mr. Lee.”
Kim Chun must have been troubling Victor Jun under the pretext of transportation of goods.
“So, is that all you need? To secure the waterway?”
“If the icebreaker could break ice every other day, naval vessels will be able to sail around with ease.”
Commander Victor Jun seemed desperate. Due to stranded vessels at the Port of Atyrau every winter, the already poor naval force was reduced in half. It was not enough to protect the territorial waters only with the small number of vessels at Port Aktau.
“Well, the seaway is where our ships would have to sail around anyway. You won’t have to spend the expense of the Ministry of National Defense. How about this? If you could provide us the oil we need to run our vessels, we’ll open the seaway for you with our icebreakers. Since we’ve got two, we could rotate them each time.”
Although the farm had already stored necessary goods before the winter arrived, many unexpected things were additionally needed at this point, so Youngho planned to break the ice anyway. It was because Doctor Kim Dong-sung’s medical team had ordered so many medical devices and medicines. Moreover, ambulances and hospital buses were also necessary. The car ferry would have to deliver those materials busily.
Just in time, the Kazakh Ministry of National Defense requested to break the ice in the sea for them. It was a win-win business for both. Youngho would save the cost of oil for his ships while doing a favor to the Kazakh government, and the Kazakh government did not have to pay for chartering Youngho’s ship.
As Youngho agreed to break the ice for the Kazakh government, Victor Jun’s serious face was brightened up immediately. He thought that Youngho was only doing a favor since he was a Koryoin and Youngho had only agreed to save his face. Since he could not read Youngho’s poker-face, it was not his fault to think that way.
“Mr. Lee. I appreciate your decision. I know it’s not an easy one.”
“Anyone would’ve done you a favor. Also, wouldn’t it be good for other Koryoins if a Koryoin naval commander like you was credited for this?”
Knowing what Victor Jun must be thinking, Youngho decided to burden his mind and earn his favor this time. After all, it would be beneficial for him to maintain a good relationship with the naval commander that was overlooking the waters where Countryside Force would be patrolling around.
“I only decided to bring out my icebreakers because you convinced me, Commander Jun. There’s no other reason.”
“I know that other Russian vessels would charge you a ton for breaking the ice for the Navy, but the ships from Arirang Autonomous State would be free, only with the cost for its oil. Commander, you’ve convinced me with your ability. You’re more than welcome to report it that way.”
Youngho smiled to think how he could be using this relationship to benefit Arirang Farm in the future. Since the farm would have to transport goods on the sea in the future anyway, having a naval commander friend was not going to be a bad deal for the farm. It was one way to prepare for the future.