Volumes grow as comprehensive ports face new challenges

Jan 25 2022

Volumes grow as comprehensive ports face new challenges

The Baltic Ports Organization’s (BPO) Comprehensive Ports Group met online last week for the first time this year. Main topics discussed during the meeting covered recent records achieved by the ports, as well as growth opportunities in context of the development of the renewable energy sector, especially wind energy.

Representatives from the ports of Hanko, Kaskinen, Pietarsaari, Stralsund, Ystad and the Saarte Liinid port network participated in first 2022 meeting of BPO’s Comprehensive Ports Group, looking back at the previous year and identifying topics that will drive the discussion in the coming months.

Good numbers…

All of the gathered port representatives described 2021 as overall good, with the industry bouncing back from the tribulations of 2020 and the early pandemic-related difficulties that put a severe strain on the global economy.

In many cases the achieved records were exceedingly good. Saarte Liinid registered one of three best years in the company’s history, with huge numbers in passenger travel and vessel calls. These numbers were driven by the fact, that due to restrictions on international travel, the passenger traffic turned inland. On the cargo side, the situation remains stable at the moment. And yet the company faces the dilemma of losing nearly a third of its cargo volumes in the next 5-10 due to environmental regulations foreseeing the restoration of the wetlands, source of turf which is handled in its ports.

Port of Ystad had a very good year as well, opening new berths and investing in new fairways. Passenger traffic and cargo turnover grew as well and present a much better picture than in 2020, with 2.3m passengers and over 3.1m tonnes cargo handled.

In Port of Hanko the situation has improved as well and is much better than forecast in the beginning of 2021, as the port registered its second-best year in history. The unitized cargo segment is growing and the port even enjoyed a few cruise calls, a new development that may present new opportunities in the future.

The records in the Port of Stralsund, similarly to its counterparts mentioned above, are looking much better than in 2020. That said, the situation isn’t close to being as table as five years ago, with cargo volumes promising to remain very volatile. The port lost volumes due to the difficulties faced by the German shipbuilding industry. MV Werften, comprised of shipyards located in Stralsund, Rostock and Wismar, filing for bankruptcy also poses some potential opportunities for the port, which surrounds it. Taking over some of the existing infrastructure may allow the port to grow and dip its toes into the offshore industry.

… sometimes aren’t enough

Ports of Kaskinen and Pietarsaari, despite registering good numbers, with the latter noting 20% growth in volumes, have suggested that the future may prove challenging. At this point it is important to note that a difficult situation of a port also means a difficult one for the nearby business ecosystem and the development of local economies.

As of right now, in order to be classified as a comprehensive port within the TEN-T Network, a port must meet one of the following conditions: total annual passenger traffic volume exceeds 0.1% of the total annual passenger traffic volume of all maritime ports of the Union; the total annual cargo volume exceeds 0.1% of the total annual cargo volume handled in all maritime ports of the Union; the maritime port is located on an island and provides the sole point of access to a NUTS 3 region in the comprehensive network; the maritime port is located in an outermost region or a peripheral area, outside a radius of 200 km from the nearest other port in the comprehensive network.

With the overall rise of volumes handled by the ports in the EU, it becomes more and more difficult for smaller ports to fulfill the above criteria. It is crucial that the policymakers enter a more open dialogue with the representatives of said ports in order to assess the current criteria and revise them as necessary.

There are 87 ports located in the Baltic Sea region, which are included in the TEN-T network. Out of these, 65 are classified as comprehensive ports and 26 are Member ports of the BPO. These ports are a vital part of the European transport network. They play a crucial role in in assuring smooth cargo flows and allowing for the diversification of transport channels. Additionally, as already mentioned, they are key to the development and growth of local economies.

BPO’s Comprehensive Ports Group plans to meet again in May 2022 to further discuss the challenges faced by the comprehensive port sector.

Comprehensive ports report

You can find more information in the report “Comprehensive Ports in the Baltic Sea – an important role for short sea shipping, people mobility, industries & Blue Economy”, published by the BPO last year.

The full report is available for download upon request by contacting the BPO Secretariat at bpo.office@actiaforum.pl