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A big step towards Europe

The Baltic states Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are cultiva­ting their role in the European Union. The EU’s TEN-T Days were held in the Latvian capital Riga recently, where the Rail Baltica project, amongst other undertakings, was naturally accorded a key position.


The transport ministers of twelve European member states joined other important personalities from the industry at a recent conference staged in Riga by the EU and the Latvian government. Violeta Bulc, the European Commissioner for Transport, said that the main aim is to realise core plans for a pan-European transport network by the year 2030. The EU said that it had succeeded in raising a record total of EUR 13.1 billion in new funds for investment in no less than 276 projects.

 

The commissioner believes that the completion of the TEN-T network could generate a total of approximately 10 million man-years worth of employment all across the continent, and potentially inflate Europe’s gross domestic product (GDP) by around 1.8%. Commissioner Bulc did not shy away from elaborating a worst-case scenario either, however. If the undertaking is not completed, she elaborated, then countless jobs will be lost. A study published by the Fraunhofer Institut has estimated that as many as 742,000 people could loose their livelihood if this case were to dominate the big picture.

 

Rail Baltica

Anrijs Matiss, the Latvian transport minister, was pleased to welcome the major EU meeting to her country’s capital, which had also been the European capital of sorts for the previous six months, as Latvia held the presidency of the council of the European Union in the first half of 2015. The Finnish, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian and Polish ministers, whose countries form the backbone of the North Sea–Baltic network, were amongst the first to give their approval and signature for the expansion of the network.

 

The Rail Baltica project is not only important for Latvia, but for the entire region, as it will improve connectivity for Tallinn, Riga, Kaunas, Helsinki and northeastern Poland, thanks to links to the European standard-gauge railway network and a new Tallinn–Helsinki ferry link or tunnel. Freight and passenger links between these states and Central Europe (Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, for ­example) also form a core part of the corridor. Over and above this, inland waterways, such as Germany’s Mittelland Canal, will be integrated into the scheme between the river Odra and German, Dutch and Flemish ports.

 

The Baltic Sea–Adriatic corridor, a planned (rail) link running through southern Po­lish industrial zones, Vienna, Bratislava, the eastern Alps and northern Italy, is also very important for the Baltic region.

 

Riga – a booming centre

Riga was not only happy to welcome key players from European overland transport world as its guests. The city with more than 2 million inhabitants is also busy improving its waterborne links. The AGM of the Baltic Ports Organization (BPO) is scheduled to take place in Riga at the beginning of September. The BPO has 45 member ports from nine Baltic Sea littoral states. Its overarching aim is to improve the shipping opportunities in the region as well as collaboration between its gateways. The title of this year’s gathering fits the current situation rather well: «Fa­cing change: opportunities or a threat for the Baltic market?».

 

The free port of Riga reported a 2.3% rise in throughput for the first six months of 2015, in comparison with the like-for-like period of the previous year. This development was owed largely to the dry bulk cargo segment, which improved by 4.2% to 11.65 million t.

 

The port’s management was not pleased with the volume of goods hand­led in the general cargo sector, which declined, for a variety of reasons, by almost 11%. Though containerised cargo fell by 1.8% to 1.93 million t, it still managed to be least hit compared to other Baltic Sea port.

 

A port spokesperson said that «existing trends nevertheless have to be reviewed, with the aim of finding viable new solutions to increase the overall volume of containerised cargo in Riga.» The volume of ro-ro cargo, metals, timber, fish and other types of goods also declined.

 

The liquid cargo segment (oil products, liquefied natural gas, etc.) was once again a pillar of reliability for the port. This field saw 5.8 million t handled, a 6.8% improvement over 2014.

Source: International Transport Journal