Freeport of Riga: planning a bright future

Following a year of intense work, BMT Transport Solutions (based in Hamburg), has submitted a draft port development plan to the Freeport of Riga (in partnership  with their Riga based partner NK Consulting). The major outcome of this plan has been BMT’s development of a model to assess port traffic in relation to overarching trends in the economy.

Therefore, the primary focus of the plan has been a thorough analysis of the commodity markets in the Freeport of Riga’s hinterland and catchment area. A cargo  forecast model that’s been created as a result of this can demonstrate the relationship between commercial movements within port terminals and the GDP growth which Latvia and the Baltic Sea region have seen over the last decade. The overall objective of using this model is to provide assurance that port traffic will increase after a period of economic uncertainty.

Versatility
In addition to handling key commodities such as oil and coal, the versatility of the Port of Riga is an advantage as increasing numbers of container ised goods are  shipped through the terminal. To accommodate this, new terminals will be created for containers, general cargo and energy related shipments in order to streamline operations and improve efficiency and environmental performance. The role of Freeport of Riga as an energy hub will be further supported by a biofuel plant located within the port boundaries. Finally, a new cruise terminal will cater to the increasing number of tourists visiting the attractive city.

As coal and oil products largely originate from Russia and Belarus, traffic in the Freeport of Riga is and will continue to be dominated by outbound cargo. However, political and port related measures from the cargos’ countries of origin apply, so it is essential for the Freeport of Riga to be flexible in terms of meeting these.

Analysis

Initially, there was a perception that the cur rent por t infrastructure would not be able to maintain the increases in traffic which BMT’s model predicts. However the large areas of land and waterfront surrounding the Port of Riga highlight significant opportunity for development if the need arises. However, the proximity of these areas to a residential complex poses a challenge for sustainable developments.

In order to develop a comprehensive SWOT analysis and port strategy, BMT and NK Consulting sought advice from Freeport personnel. Two workshops were held  covering subjects such as infrastructure, environment, navigational safety, security andmarketing. In addition to this, regular port users were interviewed, in order to establish prospects for demand.

Communication

BMT and NK Consulting also worked closely with other stakeholders (including Riga City Council), relevant ministries and NGOs in order to address any concerns  which may exist. Close communication with stakeholders during execution of the project also ensures the objectives of separate port and rail projects do not clash. In turn, cargo forecasting will help infrastructure providers to set priorities and adjust to the capacity needs created by the growing port.

Improvements

The port development plan provides the foundation for many improvements which go far beyond the provision of new berth and terminal space. Indeed, the Freeport will embark on an action programme covering a wide range of economic, social and environmental issues which embrace the principles of sustainable development. A core objective will be to develop a port community with a platform that offers free exchange of information, thereby enabling Freeport to better understand and adjust to the needs of stakeholders. On a wider level, community consultation and involvement is crucial in order to avoid objections, which create delays.

Dr. K. Wolfram Schaefer, BMT Transport Solutions GmbH, Hamburg, Germany
Edition: Edition 42

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