A vibrant port city partnership – Hamburg, Kiel and Lübeck step up their cooperation with Klaipėda
10 Mar 2015 10:47 Economy
2015 is an auspicious year for Lithuania’s port and logistics sector: the introduction of the euro is expected to lower costs and increase planning certainty, billions of euros in EU funding will speed up the expansion and upgrade the infrastructure, and a new floating LNG terminal will establish a measure of independence in terms of the country’s gas supply. At the same time, the sector faces major challenges in respect of the prevailing political and economic uncertainties in relation to its most important trading partner Russia, and the SECA guidelines that have been in force since the beginning of the year. Current developments in Lithuania provided an exciting backdrop for a joint information forum in Klaipėda, and they are opening up new areas where the cooperation between the ports can be intensified in the future.
Despite the highly volatile environment, the EU Commission projects a growth rate of 3.1 per cent for Lithuania in 2015. This means that the country's imports and exports should also increase in volume. Over the last four years, exports from Lithuania have more than doubled. The port of Klaipėda plays a vital role in Lithuania’s foreign trade. It is the country’s biggest port, and thanks to its favourable location on the Baltic Sea, it functions as a very important transport hub for Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan and Moldova. In 2014 more than 450,000 TEU (20-foot standard containers) were handled in Klaipėda – an increase of 23 per cent and a new record for the port. It is anticipated that additional impetus for growth in 2015 will come from EU funding programmes like the new “Rail Baltica” route between Estonia-Latvia-Lithuania and Poland.
With regular scheduled feeder and shortsea liner services, the port of Klaipėda offers very good connections to and from the Port of Hamburg. In 2014, some 84,000 TEU of seaborne cargo were moved between Hamburg and Klaipėda, including both imports and exports of chemical products, food and luxury goods as well as agricultural and forestry products. The seaport of Kiel also has excellent links with Klaipėda – a ro-ro service for vehicles and other rolling cargo has been in operation between the two ports for over 22 years now. Port of Lübeck operator Lübecker Hafengesellschaft is currently in talks with prospective partners about establishing a regular service between Lübeck and Klaipėda.
Working together with the Klaipėda State Seaport Authority and the Association of Lithuanian Stevedoring Companies, Port of Hamburg Marketing hosted an inaugural information and networking event in Klaipėda on 5/6 March. The event also included a tour of Lithuania’s biggest port. Among the 150 guests were the key protagonists in Lithuania's port and transport-related industries as well as representatives from the ports of Hamburg, Kiel and Lübeck, who have been maintaining good relationships with the port of Klaipėda for many years. Having three German partner port representatives visiting in Klaipėda at the same time was a first.
The participants were welcomed by the hosts and by the Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany in Klaipėda, Dr. Arūnas Baublys, as well as the Mayor of the City of Klaipėda, Vytautas Grubliauskas. The keynote speeches from the representatives of the ports of Hamburg, Kiel and Lübeck, addressing matters such as the efficiency and environmental compatibility of ports, intermodal hinterland networks and the challenges looming ahead, were complemented with a panel discussion, including experts from Lithuania. The moderator for the event and for the panel discussion was Marina Rimpo, who heads the “Market Development Baltic Sea Region” division of Port of Hamburg Marketing and closely monitors developments and challenges in what represents an important market region for the Port of Hamburg.
In spite of the economic and political uncertainties in relation to Russia and Ukraine, Lithuania’s logistics sector managed to increase its added value last year. Arvydas Vaitkus, Managing Director of the Klaipėda State Seaport Authority, was delighted that the versatile positioning of Klaipėda as a universal port has proved its worth, generating a record result of 36.41 million tonnes of cargo handled in 2014. The port suffered little to no impact as a result of the decline in transit cargo to and from Russia. Christian Göllner, Managing Director of Göllner Spedition GmbH, emphasised that what counted in the transport business above all were long-term commitment and reliability, and that it was therefore particularly important for the lines of communication to partners in Russia to be kept open and that cooperation continued wherever possible. All the participants agreed on that. “Intensifying cooperation during this difficult period will help not only the Russian economy but also, and especially, the people who are greatly affected by the sanctions the loss in the value of their currency,” added Ingo Egloff, Executive Board Member of Port of Hamburg Marketing.
The next day the Lithuanian hosts invited the participants to attend presentations on plans for developing their port, to a harbour cruise, and to a general exchange of information. During the harbour cruise the guests from Germany were particularly impressed by the floating LNG terminal. “Independence” is the name given to the first LNG terminal in the Baltic Region. The terminal, which will boost the country's security of supply, was commissioned in early 2015. Initially it will receive deliveries of liquid gas from the Norwegian company Statoil. Talks with other suppliers are already under way. The Klaipeda State Seaport Authority also has plans for providing bunkering of ships in port with LNG, as a further contribution to environmental compatibility.
“All ports, whether in northern Germany or in Lithuania, are currently operating under conditions reflecting the impact of the Ukraine crisis, a weak Russian economy and new environmental requirements. We therefore quite deliberately chose this time to stage our first joint event. Matters such as investment in infrastructure and the leasing of land affect all of us. For this reason our partners in Lithuania are hoping for more support from partners in Germany both at the political and economic level. I am very pleased that our first event has set the stage for a further intensification in our cooperation,” said Marina Rimpo in summing up after the event.