Zeltiņš: When it comes to the environment, we won’t accept any compromises

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“From the perspective of the infrastructure built, there should not be any dust generated as a result of the reloading of various dry goods cargoes, nor any type of water pollution,” stressed Freeport of Riga boss Ansis Zeltiņš in an interview with the Diena newspaper.

The biggest project in the history of the Port of Riga – the construction of Krievu Island – was completed in March this year. In an interview with the Diena, Ansis Zeltiņš pointed out that the primary objective of the project had been attained. On the east bank of the Daugava, there are no more coal handling operations taking place in the territories of Andrejsala and Eksportosta. Since the project was co-financed from European funds, all documentation related to the implementation of the project has been submitted to the European Commission (EC). The Freeport of Riga Authority is currently preparing answers to clarifying questions asked by the EU, including regarding nuances related to compliance with environmental requirements. In light of the fact that the Krievu Island project is an environmental improvement project, the European Commission must verify that all the conditions for the project have been satisfied.

In regard to residents’ concerns about coal dust on Krievu Island, Zeltiņš stressed that any industrial facility, be it a factory or a business operating at a port, will definitely not generate much optimism among people living nearby, which on a human level is understandable. For this very reason, urban development in Riga and many other European cities is aimed at relocating active port operations away from densely populated urban areas. “However, in Riga’s case, we are restricted in terms of where we can move further away from the city, and Krievu Island is the furthest place with a lower population where we can position coal handling operations. Accordingly, in my opinion, in this context everything is logical,” believes Zeltiņš.

The Freeport of Riga Authority has done all it can to minimise the potential risk of environmental pollution from handling coal. A brand new terminal was built with a new infrastructure, including a special dust suppression fence and coal sprinkling, and sewerage and decontamination systems in anticipation of coal being handled here. However, in situations where an operator completely fails to comply with technological processes, the construction of modern infrastructure is not going to help. In most cases, pollution is generated through the performance of actions, within the technological processes of which deviations from the norm are consciously or unconsciously permitted.

Zeltiņš told the Diena that “In this regard, we really are most grateful to residents of the port’s neighbouring areas, and to everyone living in the city as a whole, who draw our attention to such situations and quickly share their observations via social networks.” This unquestionably helps us to control the processes taking place within the port more effectively. We never let these signals go unnoticed. We treat compliance with environmental requirements very seriously. I have personally discussed these individual situations involving coal dust with dockworkers. The State Environmental Service, which is responsible for evaluating the situation and deciding on penalties if requirements are violated, is also informed. And if any of the dockworkers working at the port commits violations during operations, logically they have to reckon with the relevant sanctions.

For our part, we and the services responsible will continue to thoroughly monitor all port businesses, in order to reduce the impact on both the surrounding environment and the quality of life of residents in adjoining neighbourhoods to a minimum. We have installed a webcam via which everyone can watch handling processes online on the Freeport of Riga’s homepage and see how these are performed. Unfortunately, there is no denying that sometimes higher levels of coal dust occur, which is explained by the fact that dockworkers are still getting to grips with handling technologies at the new terminal. However, in the long run, such situations are not permissible.

Foto: Aivars Liepiņš - Dienas mediji