Baltic terminals report recent activity 

In Poland, Maritime Bulk Terminal Gdynia Ltd (MTMG) had something of a banner year in 2017, with overall traffic rising by 33% to 5.356 million tonnes. Of this, coal and coke performed well, reaching 1.876 million tonnes, an increase of 116% over 2016’s figure of 866,000 tonnes. Other bulks were slightly down from 146,000 tonnes to 129,000 tonnes, with a similar fall in agribulk. In 2015, this had amounted to 1.82mt (million tonnes), falling to 1,708mt in 2016 and 1.517mt last year. Liquid bulk, in comparison, rose 425 tonnes to 1.832mt.

“Dry bulk consignments to the terminal arrive by both road and rail, with an almost equal split,” explains the spokesperson.

“Agribulk and other bulks mostly use road transport, while the rest go by rail. We don’t have an inland waterway connection at all.”

Despite the year-on-year rise in traffic, the number of vessel calls continues to shrink. In 2015, there were 304 calls, falling to 292 calls in 2016 and just 256 calls last year. However, the spokesperson says that the relative size of vessels has stayed the same.

As for current storage capacity for dry bulk, this amounts to around 360,2000m3 of covered warehousing and around 105,830m3 of open area. The terminal can handle in the region of 40,000 tonnes per day.

On 10 March 2017, Maritime Bulk Terminal Ltd opened a brand new storage yard located on French Quay. The new investment, whose first consignment was 45,000 tonnes of imported coal, is dedicated to the storage of bulk cargo such as coal, coke, aggregates, and so on.

The yard itself is 40m wide and 198m long, covering a total area of approximately 8,000m2.

It is surrounded by three ferrous- concrete walls, 7m high, and has a partial roof with a reach of 5m inside the yard. This is to help reduce dust during handling operations on French Quay.

At the same time, MTMG took the opportunity to modernize the entrance  road and railway tracks at French Quay, as well as water, energy and telecom- munication networks.

MTMG, which is located at the main entrance of the port, is connected to both the national road and railway and networks. It is a common user terminal, offering various services, including reloading, open and covered storage, big-bagging and sorting of dry bulk cargo, as well as transshipping liquid bulk.

The terminal, which operates around the clock, handles coal, coke, grain and feedstuffs, minerals, fertilizer, biomass, ores and other dry bulk, in addition to liquid and general cargo.

“We already have various ISO certificates granted by the Polish Chamber of Foreign Trade Certification and Bureau Veritas Certification,” notes the spokesperson. “However, MTMG keeps investing to increase qualitative and safety standards on the terminal both for clients and for the workforce employed there. Apart from that, MTMG also focuses on being an environmental friendly terminal through the idea of MTMGreen, which involves investing in dedicated equipment, such as dust-prevention solutions.”

Indeed, to protect the environment and local neighbourhood, MTMG has acquired modern systems to protect stockpiles against excessive dusting by covering commodities with thin layer of cellulose using a patented Dustcrusterliquid installation.

Last year, the Szczecin–S´winoujs´cie Port Complex also recorded exceptionally high cargo handling figures. The twin ports handled nearly 25.5mt of cargo, which is an increase of 5.4% compared with 2016.

Two products stood out: ores and fuel respectively increasing by 59.4% and 46.7%. According to the port authority, demand for iron ore from Polish, Slovak and Czech steel mills mainly accounted for these high growth rates for this commodity, while demand for fuel increased due to the operation of the LNG terminal in S´winoujs´cie and larger imports of crude oil from Russia, not to mention extra demand for oil from Western Europe.

Other bulks did very well last year, going up by 5.4%. General cargo also had a good year, demonstrating growth of 4.2%, especially in the ferry sector were an increase of 6.9% was logged.

Significantly, while containers went up by 3%, this was actually at the lower end of growth posted by the Complex’s various terminals. A port authority spokesperson noted that the drop in grain was “a major surprise”. In fact, the two ports saw a 28.6% decline, due to adverse weather and the rainy summer of 2017.

Last year, the downward trend continued in the handling of coal, with tonnage declining 27% compared with the 2016 figure.

Overall, though, the twin ports handled 25.42mt of cargo, which was 1.31mt more than in 2016, equivalent to growth of 5.4%.

The port authority foresees that the upward trend should continue throughout 2018 and has set an end-of-year target of 26mt. Nevertheless, this comes with an important caveat: that market volatility could well still impact negatively on traffic.

Both the port authority and terminal operators have been making strident efforts to attract new cargo. This includes investment in port infrastructure. Indeed, according to the 2014–2020 investment plan, the Seaports Authority intends to spend nearly PLN1.5 billion.

The intention is to modernize quays in Szczecin near the De?bicki Canal and around the Kaszubski Basin. The technical parameters of the quays will be aligned with the new water depth of the S´winoujs´cie–Szczecin fairway.

In S´winoujs´cie, the ferry terminal is to be upgraded to make it suitable for intermodal transport, while a new redistribution facility will be built at the LNG terminal. The port is additionally going to build a new deep sea quay.

Stressed is the fact, that, in the near future, investment in the ports will improve access infrastructure through the dredging and modernizing of the S´winoujs´cie- Szczecin fairway to a depth of 12.5 metres. At the same time, improved navigation conditions will be applied to the Oder Waterway.

“All the activities are expected to enhance the competitiveness of the Szczecin and S´winoujs´cie seaports, which should mean growing volumes of cargo handled,” says the port authority.

Today, in the Szczecin and S´winoujs´cie complex, general cargo accounts for 51% of total traffic, dry bulk 36% and liquid bulk 13%. Besides, the S´winoujs´cie ferry terminal is the acknowledged ferry service leader in the South Baltic Sea. Presently, 12 ferries operate to and from Sweden, with 11 trips daily to the ports of Trelleborg and Ystad.

While business in Poland was buoyant, some Latvian ports and terminals struggled as Russian exporters switched key consignments to domestic ports.

Freeport of Ventspils, however, bucked the trend. It handled around 6.832mt in 2017, which was 1.423mt more than the previous year, equivalent to growth of 26%. According to a port authority spokes- person, the increase was due mainly to changes in the coal market at the beginning of the year, which meant that the port’s specialist terminals attracted an extra 1,642mt of traffic compared to the corresponding 2016 period.

The main focus for Ventspils remains Russian transit cargo. Other than dry bulk, Ventspils is seeing a rise in Ro-Ro and containerized cargo. It is also become a hub for niche project cargo, which requires both high quality handling and a stable environment, both of which the port can offer.

As for traffic in 2018, the spokesperson pointed out that the majority of cargo passing through the port is essentially transit cargo, which is impacted above all by the global economy. Ro-Ro cargo is continuing to increase in importance due to domestic exports and also because it is attracting new transit cargo types.

Port capacity is a nominal 43mt per annum, which is more than sufficient for current traffic levels. However, Freeport of Ventspils Authority has invested in enlarging and customizing the port area in recent years so that it can handle new cargo flows, such as grain, frozen products, oil and so on.

While previously planned expansion has now been completed, the port is looking at a 100ha new harbour, known as the Northern Port. This project will only go ahead if a private sector investor can be found.

The port authority, as such, does not undertake terminal handling equipment investment, since this forms part of the remit of terminal operators. These also offer some added value services in the form of bagging, blending, and the removal of metal objects, among a host of others.

According to the port authority, the port can handle the largest vessels that currently service the Baltic Sea market. Increased profit is resulting in larger vessels being chartered on some services.

In terms of terrestrial access,Ventspils port forms part of the European TEN-T transport network. Nowadays, the majority of dry bulk traffic enters the port by rail, although traffic bound for Ro-Ro services naturally makes greater use of the connecting highway network. The port currently has no inland waterway connection.

In contrast to Ventspils, traffic at the Port of Riga fell 6.6% last year to 20.9mt. The reason for the decrease was the fall in the transhipped volume of the two largest types of bulk cargo: coal and mineral fertilizer. As both of these are almost 100% Russian transit cargo, this decline reflects the impact of Russian transport policy on the Port of Riga and other non-Russian Baltic ports. Russia is steadily developing its own ports on the Baltic Sea and reorienting its cargo towards them, the port authority told DCi.

As a result of the decrease of Russian transit cargo, local cargo from Latvia, other Baltic States and Belarus is gaining in importance at Riga. This is in the form of grain and grain products, as well as bulk wood commodities, such as wood pellets, wood chips and sawn timber.

In 2017, 1.34mt of grain and grain products passed through the Port of Riga, which was 3.8% more than in 2016. However, there was a slight drop in the transhipped volume of wood pellets (- 4.7%), related to a decrease in demand from European markets, while during the year 1.37mt of wood pellets were handled. Wood pellets are predicted to be one of the main growth areas for the port going forward.

Asked about factors impacting this year’s traffic, the port authority notes that Russian transport policy will continue to favour the shifting of cargo away from ports in the Baltic States to its own ports, therefore, it is forecasting that the decrease of Russian transit cargo at the Port of Riga will continue.

“The main reasons are not economic, but rather politically related. The voluntary redirection of cargo to ports in Russia is their response to the European Union's sanctions against Russia,” notes a spokesperson.

The current bulk cargo handling capacity at the Port of Riga is 35mt annually, which is viewed as quite sufficient given the decrease in dry bulk volumes. Although investment is being made to boost terminal efficiency, for reasons of modernization and the switching of one type of cargo to another, no money is needed to increase overall capacity per se.

In 2018, investment by the Freeport of Riga Authority and the port companies will continue with the creation of the new port complex on Krievu island. From 2019, all transshipment of coal should be diverted from berths close to the city centre to here.

As for adding value, in the port’s various terminals, processing services are available. These consist of coal crushing, sorting and magnetic treatment (cleaning), as well as packing of cereal products for fodder. Some terminals indicated are also carrying out the packing and weighing of dry cargo commodities.

Vessel sizes (dwt — deadweight tonnage) vary depending on the type of cargo. In addition, if different types of cargo are shipped to different markets, then dwt also varies from market to market. For example, at the Port of Riga, ships with the largest dwt transport coal, which is mostly shipped to Western European ports.

The average size of dry bulk vessels increased significantly in 2012. During the last few years, the average size has not changed considerably.

Finally, in terms of terrestrial connectivity, dry bulk arrives mainly by rail to the port, with the two largest commodities — inbound coal and mineral fertilizer from Russia — moving exclusively by rail. This is made possible since Latvia, like Russia, operates on the 1,520mm rail gauge, which is broader than the European standard.

Consignments of cereal products and wood pellets arrive by both road and rail.