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