Baltic Ports Conference 2014

Baltic Ports Conference 2014

Baltic Ports met in Rønne at Bornholm (Denmark) to discuss main challenges that are ahead of maritime transport in the region. Julian Skelnik, Chairman of the Baltic Ports Organization (BPO), presented a set of challenges for the port sector, among them, situation in Ukraine and weakening of Russian economy creates a new geopolitical environment for ports. Moreover; impact of new SECA regime remains an unsolved question for shipping. These main topics created a discussion framework for the whole Baltic Ports Conference 2014.

New sulphur emission limits from shipping (enforced by SECA rules) will be introduced in the Baltic Sea in the next four months. Short-term compliance strategies are rather obvious. Most of the ship-owners will use distillate fuel (MDO/MGO) with low content of sulphur instead of Heavy Fuel Oil. Some owners of ferries and ro-ro ships have decided to install scrubbers. This will, of course, increase the operational or/and capital costs and have an impact on the prices of maritime transport. A consequence creating challenges for shipping lines and for ports in the Baltic. Henning Mohn, Principal Consultant at DNVGL Maritime Advisory, speaking at the conference concluded: “The majority of the business can cope with ECA and other regulations, but costs are to be passed to end-users”.

Poul Woodall, Environment and Sustainability Director at DFDS A/S presented a wide ranged description on what are the main challenges that ship-owners are facing when preparing for new SECA regime. Among the commercial challenges he listed: loss of business, change in trade flows, modal shift to land transport. He also pointed out that implementation of EU sulphur directive is not harmonised among EU member states. Moreover, it is not unclear if ships, while staying in ports, will be able to use scrubbers due to different implementation of water framework directive in some EU countries.

During the session dedicated to the geopolitics and macro-economy as driving forces for port sector prof. Kari Liuhto from Turku School of Economics gave a very comprehensive description of Russian economy and trade structure with EU countries. According to his estimations half of the Russian foreign trade is with EU. He expects rather low economic growth in Russia in next years to come. As presented at the panel, for many Baltic ports Russian cargo is a very important part of the business, so geopolitical situation in the region is closely followed by them.

Dimitrios Theologitis, from DG MOVE, European Commission presented new TEN-T Policy and financial instrument called Connecting Europe Facility (CEF). A new 2014 call is just to be opened and nearly 13 bill Euro is to be spent for transport infrastructure (including ports) in first round of CEF. He also presented update on EU Port Policy. Isabelle Ryckbost, Secretary General of ESPO, commenting EU Port Policy said “what EU ports need is more certainty in the legislation framework”.  
Bogdan Ołdakowksi, BPO Secretary General, summarising the conference said that “there are more and more uncertainties for the Baltic ports for coming years, including geopolitical situation in Europe, market conditions, mainly impact of SECA rules but also overall economic situation in Europe. In this difficult situation, European Commission brings a good message for ports, which is allocation of substantial budget of upgrading transport and port infrastructure in EU. Baltic ports welcome this message very much. However, semi-sized ports including these with so called “comprehensive” status, would like the EU found to be more opened also for them” – he concluded.

A part of the Baltic Ports Conference and BPO General Assembly, two dedicated seminars for small ports and comprehensive ports were organised as back-to-back events.