Experts talk COVID-19 and Belarus impact on port turnover in Latvia

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The volume of cargo handled in Latvian is falling due to the consequences of COVID-19, but new concerns are raised by recent events in Belarus and the sanctions that have just been imposed on its officials. How have Belarus events and COVID-19 affected our ports? Latvian Radio spoke to industry experts September 6.

Container cargo is the safest and most environmentally friendly way of transporting and storing goods. Every port wants to see it in its cargo conjuncture, said Transport Minister, Tālis Linkaits (New Conservative Party). This is an opportunity to develop logistics centers and create added value through cargo handling. Riga Port just started operating a new container cargo structure last week.

However, the impact of COVID-19 was harshest on the volume of container cargo structures in the spring, said Ansis Zeltiņš, manager of the Free Port of Riga, adding that Riga suffered the least in this respect compared to other ports in the Baltic Sea.

"At the moment, it is difficult to judge the impact of Belarus. I would say that there will be no very significant impact at least on the current port turnover, because the proportion of Belarusian freight in Riga is relatively small. It has been a maximum of 10%, and could currently represent some 4% of total cargo turnover. The most important section is petroleum products and, in particular, heavy fuel.

In fact, the fall in heavy fuel oil and petroleum products in Riga port was historic, and the trend was negative. I think there's nothing very cardinals going to change here either. Of course, if there is a political change in a factory [in Belarus], it will stop working or otherwise, it will of course affect the direction of heavy fuel oil through Riga port, "said Zeltiņš.

More concerned about the situation in Belarus and the impact of sanctions imposed on port work was Ivars Landmanis, board member of the Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics Society.

"There's nothing hopeful about the future. If Belarus imposes any response sanctions, of course, it will have an impact. We know, both oil products and a lot of wood chips come to Latvia. If it turns away, of course it will have an impact," Landmanis said.

On the other hand, the impact of COVID-19 has hampered port development due to the absence of meetings and the search for new forms of cooperation. However, Transport Minister Linkaits is not so skeptical yet.

"We are also looking at whether any impact on our economic cooperation with Belarus is expected. For the time being, we do not feel any change in the flow of goods, so we are only following the development of events. Of course, in a situation where already the flow of goods from Russia has decreased, any amount of goods is important for our transit industry, but as I said, there is currently no change in the area of economic cooperation, we are watching developments," the Minister said.


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