Baltic Ports Conference 2022 concludes in Gdynia

Sep 08 2022

Baltic Ports Conference 2022 concludes in Gdynia

The Baltic Ports Conference 2022 concluded today in Gdynia. It was the first face to face meeting of the Members of the Baltic Ports Organization (BPO) since the outbreak of the pandemic, hosted this year by the Port of Gdynia and gathering over 150 participants. Main discussion revolved around the current geopolitical situation in the Baltic Sea Region and Europe and their impact on the maritime transport sector.

During the opening speeches, Kimmo Naski, Chairman, BPO, Katarzyna Gruszecka-Spychała, Deputy Mayor, City of Gdynia and Maciej Bąk, Vice-President of the Board, Port of Gdynia, underscored the need to view ports as strategic assets of the European Union in these times of change. The War in the Ukraine brings a new set of challenges that have and will continue to have great impact on economy and trade in Europe.

In his keynote speech, Aaron Korewa (Atlantic Council) stated the conflict as the most important one for Europe since the outbreak of the World War II. If all pieces fall right, Europe and the Baltic may assure their security for many years to come. But it is paramount to remain vigilant. It can only happen under increased cross-Baltic collaboration and will fail if the North and South coasts of the Baltic Sea stay separated security-wise and this requires political impetus, time, resources and shared risk.

Resilience above all 

"(...) resilience as the key factor in a time of heightened uncertainty."

Geopolitics were also the main subject of the first two discussion panels held at the event. Representatives from ESPO, CBSS, the Polish Economic Institute and the Freeport of Riga cited resilience as the key factor in a time of heightened uncertainty. Agile cooperation and long-term planning, essentially looking beyond the conflict in Ukraine, are what is required to face the consequences that are sure to follow.

These broad strokes were then analyzed in more detail by guests from the Ports of Helsinki, Rostock and Ystad, as well as Unifeeder, going deeper on concrete effects that trade under sanctions had on their business. Further aspects were than explored by Dr Dorota Książkiewicz (University of Gdańsk) citing, among others, rising military expenditures, tightening credit availability and concerns related to costs and stability of energy sourcing as further challenges that economies and industries will have to face.

A new scene for Baltic ports

One of the highlights of the event was the presentation based on the upcoming BPO report “Baltic Sea Region – a new scene for Baltic ports”, offering an in-depth analysis of the new political situation in the BSR, consequences of sanctions and countersanctions the West imposed on Russia and Belarus on international trade, outlooks for economy and trade in the BSR, energy security issues and much more.

The presentation highlighted the impact the war in Ukraine had on a number of cargo groups, including LNG, coal, containers and transit cargo among others. In case of LNG, imports in the terminals in Świnoujście and Klaipeda rose by 35% and 44.1% respectively between January and June 2022 in comparison to the same period in 2021. Since many European countries used to import coal from Russia, bans on these affected them in a significant way. In case of Polish ports, coal throughput registered a bump of 62.5% in Q2 2022 as compared to Q2 2021.

Looking at transit cargo, Klaipeda, a key transit port for Belarussian fertilizers, observed a drop of -50.8% in H1 2022 versus H1 2021. HaminaKotka was also affected, noting drops of -21.4% in Q2 2022 in comparison to Q2 2021.

“Given the uncertain and dynamically evolving geopolitical situation in Europe, which also greatly affects the Baltic port sector, it was a natural step to prepare a comprehensive document highlighting the most important aspects and acting as a source of information for our Members and other stakeholders involved in the maritime community. We believe that the report will enhance the decision-making process of its readers and contribute to the development of their business in these challenging times”, said Bogdan Ołdakowski, Secretary General, BPO.

The aforementioned report is packed with far more data and evaluation, impossible to be covered in the scope of a single presentation. The report will be made available on a per request basis upon contacting the BPO Secretariat.

Energy transition as both challenge and opportunity

The agenda of this year’s edition of the Baltic Ports Conference couldn’t forget to mention the challenges and opportunities related to the upcoming energy transition. Asked about whether the goals stated within the European Green Deal for shipping are achievable, Steve Esau (SEA-LNG) answered “yes, but…”. It will all depend on the final green-house gas (GHG) intensity limit trajectory agreed for FuelEU Maritime and the readiness to act with pragmatism over idealism.

In terms of preparing for the opportunities the transition will open before ports, Algis Latakas (Port of Klaipeda) underlined the need for investments in modern infrastructure as a prerequisite for entering new markets and changing trade routes.

"(...) need for investments in modern infrastructure as a prerequisite for entering new markets and changing trade routes." 

These investments though, need to be evaluated very carefully as they are linked to the specific characteristics of a given port, such as the type of traffic it handles. They also may depend on local policies and regulations in various countries. Long-term thinking and betting on solutions that will remain in use while the energy mix changes will be key, according to representatives of the Ports of Gdynia and Tallinn and Ernst & Young. 

Technology at the forefront of change

It was great to see numerous presentations by various Conference Partners, showcasing some of their latest solutions, which can bolster the maritime sector on its quest towards continuous competitiveness, sustainability and operational efficiency. 

Karri Koistinen (GISGRO) shared his thoughts on utilizing ports’ environmental data in decision-making in order to get the most out of green investments. Graham Howe (Marlin SmartPort) explained how day-to-day port operations can be optimized by use of ingenious digital tools and finally giving up Excel. Lauri-Tapio Korhonen (Grieg Connect) proved that port call management from order to delivery doesn’t have to involve hundreds of e-mails and phone calls. Last but not least, Manu Grönlund (Enersense) introduced the benefits of a floating ro-ro pontoon.

The event concluded with a boat trip organized by the host, Port of Gdynia, taking the participants on a leisurely but informative tour of the port’s area, allowing for a look “from the waterside” into its operations. Guests were able to relax and catch some sunshine after all the networking at the previous evening’s cocktail party, courtesy of Stena Line. 

The Baltic Ports Conference will return on 6-8 September, 2023, hosted by the Port of Ystad.