Latvian Association of Stevedoring Companies discusses industry challenges and development scenarios – Baltic News Network

Stevedores from the seaports of Ventspils, Liepaja and Riga, as well as representatives of state institutions related to the sector gathered for an extended board meeting of the Latvian Association of Stevedoring Companies in Ventspils last week. Officials discussed a number of existing challenges and topics related to the sustainable development of the sector.

Although the indices of freight transport by rail and via Latvian seaports improved in the first half of the year, with Ventspils, for example, registering 25.4% more freight compared to the same period of 2021, Freeport of Riga registering 11.5% more, Liepaja experiencing 15.2% more and rail freight volumes increasing by 17.6%, one of the main existing challenges remains attracting new freight and continuing restructuring of the sector.

According to the Vice-President of the Latvian Association of Stevedoring Companies, Chairman of the Board of the Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics Ivars Landmanis, fruitful cooperation with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan makes it possible to consider the future with cautious optimism.

“Cooperation with these Central Asian countries is important for businessmen, but it is no less important that this cooperation also contributes to the maintenance of port infrastructure,” said the head of BATL.

In order to encourage the participation of new partners, Latvia cannot afford unreasonable decisions by public authorities regarding any freight segment in the country. LSA points out that the coal transported through Latvia from Kazakhstan is destined for European consumers. This means that this type of freight is a product of fundamental importance for ensuring the energy independence of the whole of the European Union. This is why LSA also addressed the subject of Latvian Railways (LDz) tariffs for this type of freight.

Equally important is the topic of advancing seaport reform and how the Department of Transport can participate in efforts to address current industry challenges. It is clear that the continued development of the seaport sector requires projects aimed at transforming and modernizing the sector. This is why LSA has already started working on new infrastructure projects, new value-added services, as well as successful Latvian and Baltic exports using Latvian seaports.

During the meeting, participants reviewed and discussed eight important topics that span the seaport sector. Representatives of the Ministry of Transport, LDz, Maritime Administration of Latvia, State Environmental Service, National Revenue Service Customs Office and State Border Guards reported on areas where it is possible to improve cooperation and listed the challenges related to transit.

Among the topics discussed by the participants of the meeting were topics such as the digitization of maritime port terminals, the modernization of SKLOIs and the introduction of vertical reports in the Baltic Sea region, the improvement and acceleration of procedures customs, energy development in seaports, the order for the issuance of category A, B and C permits, the establishment of sanctions and their control, financial support, exit from the crisis in the sector, etc.

As for financial support, there is talk of discounts on leases of the territory of seaports for port businessmen if the volume of cargo handled by seaports continues to decline. The European Union has banned imports of Russian coal (the only exception is the transit of coal through Lithuania to Kaliningrad). It is still allowed to work with Russian petroleum products until December 4, 2022.

Companies that work with the handling of petroleum products are placed in a very difficult situation, the resolution of which will require reaching a compromise with state institutions. As LSA Board Chairman Āris Ozoliņš told Kurzeme TV, the Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Finance will be brought in to help if needed.

Since the EU and US governments imposed sanctions on Russia and Belarus, the situation in Latvia is far from easy. Nevertheless, businessmen are looking for opportunities to refocus their operations. Many important steps have already been taken. For example, LSA as the leading organization in the longshore and transit industry is actively assisting companies with new options for diversification and development.

The transit sector contributes a lot to the Latvian economy despite the drop in freight volumes. This is confirmed by customs statistics, according to which, in the first half of 2022 alone, export volumes to third countries via the seaports of Riga, Ventspils and Liepaja reached 2.02 billion euros, i.e. 67.2% of total export value. Compared to the same period of 2021, it increased by 18.9%. The increase in import volumes from third countries was 52% compared to the first half of last year. The value of these imports was €1.27 billion, or 39.8% of the total import value.

The next extended meeting of the LSA council will take place in Riga and will include representatives of Riga’s business people.

Andrew B. Reiter