Largest ports of Latvia change their focus and intend to make investments to improve their competitiveness

In 2019, 62.4 million marine shipments were handled by Latvian ports. In comparison to 2018, the total volume of cargo decreased by 5.7%. Considering that the traditional regional cargo flows tend to change and the volume of handled transit consignments has decreased in Latvia, this result is still to be considered fairly good. Moreover, the largest ports of Latvia handled 41% of the total cargo volume in the Baltic States (147 million tonnes).

“Though recent events have put ports and the transit sector in the spotlight, I would like to underline that the situation is stable, which is demonstrated by the ability of the largest Latvian ports to restructure their consignment flows. By handling 62.3 million tonnes of cargo in 2019, Latvia has maintained its leading position in the Baltic States, and we intend to maintain it in 2020. We are aware of the Russian policy concerning transit via the Baltic ports, and all ports of Latvia have to keep their focus on finding new customers,” emphasises Tālis Linkaits, the Minister for Transport.

In 2019, the Freeport of Riga was still the largest port in Latvia and handled more than half (53%) of the total cargo volume shipped via Latvian ports. This amounts to 32.8 million tonnes, which is 10.1% or 3.7 million tonnes less than in 2018.  At the same time, to adjust to global trends and marker circumstances, the Port of Riga has recently changed its cargo portfolio – the dwindling flows of fossil fuels are gradually substituted with other flows.

2019 was the first year in which the total volume of other cargo handled at the Freeport of Riga (since 2015 it has continuously increased by 3% annually) exceeded the total volume of fossil fuels; this was made possible due to an impressive increase in the flow of wood pellets (+35%) and cereals (+33%), as well as record results for wood chip consignments. Container cargo is still very important for the port (15% of the total volume): in 2019, 467,000 TEU units were processed at the port, which is roughly the same as the year before.

“To improve the quality of port services and strengthen our market position, and according to the new Development programme, the Freeport of Riga Authority has started its first ever targeted programme for extensive renovation of its land and water infrastructure. As early as in 2020, the Freeport of Riga Authority intends to invest EUR 14.6 million in the development of roads, bridges and overpasses, the reconstruction of its railway infrastructure, reconstruction of births and bank support structures, as well as other significant reconstruction activities,” summarises Ansis Zeltiņš, CEO of the Freeport of Riga.

In 2019, the Port of Ventspils handled 33% of the total volume of cargo shipped via Latvian ports. Since 2016, when the port had its lowest cargo turnover ever, it has managed to increase cargo turnover on an annual basis. In 2019, the Port of Ventspils handled 20.46 million tonnes, which is 131,000 tonnes more than in 2018. The volume of cereals cargo increased the most, followed by coal, fertiliser and metal consignments. The invariable focus of port operators on diversification was one of the factors that contributed to the stability of turnover. The share of crude oil and petroleum products that traditionally were handled most at the port was only 46% of the total cargo turnover in 2019, while the share of ro-ro consignments, general cargo and bulk cargo increased.

Andris Purmalis, CEO of the Freeport of Ventspils: “Currently, the Freeport of Ventspils faces many new challenges and opportunities. Terminals of the Port of Ventspils ended 2019 with a positive balance, but we have to ensure that our management platform allows port operators to be sure about the transparency of administration, and efficient and reasonable performance that gives an opportunity not only to maintain the current turnover, but also to develop further. Currently, the Freeport of Ventspils has four main focus areas. We carefully review current projects, update the investment section, focusing on the maintenance and development of port infrastructure, update the legal framework for the newly established joint stock company to take over the Freeport of Ventspils Authority, and, most importantly, make targeted improvements in the performance of port administration.”