Un­re­solved ques­tion: does tran­sit face a hard land­ing in Latvia?

Baltic News Network - - News -

The fact that Latvia’s ports will feel the pres­sure from cargo de­cline even more was clear since the ex­change of sanc­tions be­tween the Euro­pean Union and Rus­sia. Con­se­quences to this are still present. Some in­dus­tries have felt this more than oth­ers. One of the in­dus­tries that have suf­fered the most is Latvia’s tran­sit in­dus­try, as re­ported by ventspilnieks.lv por­tal.

Rus­sia con­tin­ues di­vert­ing more and more of its car­goes to its own ports, rather than ports of Baltic States. This is demon­strated by the com­pi­la­tion of last year’s in­dexes: turnover of car­goes at Rus­sian ports had grown to reach 787 mil­lion tonnes last year, which is 9% more when com­pared with the year be­fore. Latvia, on the other hand, suf­fered a 2% de­cline for cargo turnover, as re­ported by the por­tal.

This year is un­likely to be fruit­ful for cargo turnover ei­ther, and there are sev­eral rea­sons for that. The main ob­jec­tive is at least main­tain­ing the cur­rent turnover vol­ume and con­tin­u­ing the search for other so­lu­tions.

Last year, Lat­vian ports han­dled a to­tal of 61,877 mil­lion tonnes of car­goes, which is 2% less when com­pared with 2016, ac­cord­ing to data pub­lished by Trans­port Min­istry. The largest turnover was recorded for bulk cargo seg­ment: 33.362 mil­lion tonnes were trans­shipped, which is a 1.7% in­crease. The vol­ume of coal car­goes han­dled by Lat­vian ports reached 17,591 mil­lion tonnes, which is 5.2% more than the year be­fore. Still, a pos­i­tive ten­dency was demon­strated by large turnover num­bers at the be­gin­ning of the year, when Rus­sian ports sim­ply could not han­dle the vol­ume of car­goes com­ing in, which forced them to di­vert to other ports, in­clud­ing ones in Latvia.

Even han­dling of wood chip car­goes demon­strated pos­i­tive re­sults: 1,469 mil­lion tonnes, or a 12.9% in­crease. Chem­i­cal car­goes, or min­eral fer­til­iz­ers, were han­dled by one-fifth less than be­fore – 2,732 mil­lion tonnes (17% de­cline). Ventspilnieks.lv notes that even though the pic­ture seems at least some­what pos­i­tive, a look at num­bers re­veals that it is not so great. Although some in­crease has been no­ticed in com­par­i­son with 2016, a re­sult of 33,362 mil­lion tonnes is the se­cond low­est in­dex in the past seven years. The high­est in­dex was reg­is­tered in 2012, when turnover of bulk car­goes reached 37,279 mil­lion tonnes.

Nu­mer­i­cally the largest in­crease was noted in the gen­eral car­goes seg­ment. Last year, a to­tal 11,599 mil­lion tonnes of car­goes were trans­shipped last year, which is 7.1% more than in 2016. The year was also suc­cess­ful for Ro-Ro car­goes, which saw 3,186 mil­lion tonnes han­dled by Lat­vian ports or 14.6% more than the year be­fore. Con­tainer car­goes were trans­shipped in a vol­ume of 4,658 mil­lion tonnes (in­crease of 13.7%). Turnover of tim­ber de­clined 5% and was 3.243 mil­lion tonnes. Re­sults demon­strated in this seg­ment show that the in­dus­try con­tin­ues to re­cover, step by step. How­ever, this is still the fifth low­est in­dex in the past five years. Un­for­tu­nately, the sit­u­a­tion is pulled un­der wa­ter by the de­cline in turnover of liq­uid car­goes, of which Lat­vian ports had trans­shipped a to­tal of 16,915 mil­lion tonnes. This is 13.2% less than the year be­fore. Oil prod­ucts form the largest por­tion of liq­uid car­goes – 16,11 mil­lion tonnes (-13.9%). Crude oil car­goes were trans­shipped by Lat­vian ports in the vol­ume of 34,200 tonnes, which is 37.2% less when com­pared with the year be­fore. Last year’s re­sult is an ab­so­lute anti-record.

How is Ventspils port these days?

Riga port re­mains in the lead among Lat­vian ports cargo vol­ume-wise. The port han­dled 33,674 mil­lion tonnes last year. Un­like two other ma­jor Lat­vian ports – Ventspils and Liepaja – the cap­i­tal suf­fers from cargo turnover de­cline – at about 9.2%. Ventspils port con­cluded 2017 on a sym­bol­i­cally pos­i­tive note – thanks to pos­i­tive cargo turnover ex­pe­ri­enced at the be­gin­ning of the year, ev­ery month’s per­cent­age point con­tin­ued to de­cline in com­par­i­son with the pre­vi­ous year un­til the very end of 2017, when it was only 6.5% or 20,035 mil­lion tonnes. Though a slight in­crease, it re­mains the se­cond low­est in­dex since the restora­tion of in­de­pen­dence.

Although its turnover was three times be­low that of Ventspils port and was 6,588 mil­lion tonnes, Liepaja port ex­pe­ri­enced an in­crease of 16% in 2017. In ad­di­tion, the port con­tin­ued fo­cus­ing on its own seg­ment – it wanted to be­come the main port for grain trans­ports in the coun­try, even though Ventspils port is putting ef­forts into ex­pand­ing its own ter­mi­nal and the cap­i­tal is look­ing into this seg­ment as well.

Lithua­nia dis­tances away from Latvia

Cargo turnover vol­umes have also de­clined for Latvi­jas dzelzceļš. Last year’s turnover was 43.79 mil­lion tonnes, which is 8.4% less than a year be­fore. Tran­sit vol­umes have de­clined the most for ports – by 11.3% to 35.04 mil­lion tonnes. Mean­while, LDz and its sub­sidiaries are more wor­ried about rais­ing value of their as­sets and less about tar­iff mat­ters. Next to Latvia, how­ever, there is Lithua­nia, where rail­way trans­port vol­umes last year had in­creased by 10%, reach­ing 53.5 mil­lion tonnes.

Klaipeda port con­tin­ues grow­ing. It is al­ready ahead of Riga port by ten mil­lion tonnes.

Sin­tija Zan­der­sone/LETA

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