The Port of Riga, Latvia, has seen a total increase in the size of ships it accepts after the redevelopment work to widen the Panama Canal.
In 2017 the port handled almost 3 times more cargo than in 1997, while the total number of incoming merchant vessels dropped from 4,029 in 1997 to 3,422 in 2017.
A. Brokovskis, Captain of the Freeport of Riga, commented: “The trend is clear: the number of ships coming to the port is decreasing, but their capacity increases.”
The size of ships has been rapidly increasing at the Latvian port over the past decade.
In 2010 the port accepted only 110 ships with a deadweight capacity of more than 50,000 tonnes, while in 2017 the number of vessels above that capacity was 214.
The port states that the recent work to widen the Panama Canal is behind the increase in vessel size, with the maximum width for ships crossing the route increasing to 49m.
There has been a large investment push at the port to help accommodate the larger ships, including approximately $103 million in dredging works, and upgrades to the IT infrastructure and navigation systems.
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Brokovskis said: “If the height of the captain’s command bridge on a panamax-type ship is located at least at the level of the seventh floor, determining the precise distances to the shore or pier is practically impossible.
“Therefore, nowadays accurate digital tools and equipment are used more and more often.
“We are living in the 21st century, and centuries-old port professions are also experiencing rapid changes.”
The port aims to provide continued development of the on shore infrastructure to enable faster processing of larger vessels.
Deputy CEO of SIA Rīgas universālais terminals, Jānis Kasalis, explained: “In order to handle large ships quickly, we need greater railway and road transport capacity, as well as larger warehouses and modern handling technologies.
“Likewise, we have invested almost EUR 10M in the extension of the pier to enable the terminal to accept larger ships and operate under new competitive conditions.”