The Baltic Course  

Ventspils ready for any cargo

By Olga Pavuk

The BC spoke to Imants Sarmulis, the manager of Latvia's Ventspils Free Port in north-western Latvia, just as he was about to make a visit to Kazakhstan. We spoke about the port's unlimited possibilities following its radical modernization process 

What new services can the port offer its customers now?

In recent years the port underwent modernization and has now risen to a new level by quality of liquid cargo handling. The terminals for reloading oil, oil products and chemicals are the largest in the Baltics and can accept Aframax-type vessels which is particularly important concerning oil and oil products. Few Baltic ports are able to offer such services. As for dry-bulk and general cargo, after modernization Panamax-type vessels can also moor at the port which gives our clients some advantage, allowing to save costs for sea transportation and time as loading is faster. The third major novelty offered by port Ventspils is the expanded range of goods we can handle. Reloading containers and various other cargo types, including machinery on wheels, has all become much more effective. I state with certainty that today port Ventspils can reload any cargo - be it liquid, bulk, general, container cargo. A customer making an offer to our port companies will not be turned down.   

Would you tell us about major port development projects?

As I said, the port is ready to handle any cargo types. No dramatic changes are needed yet. Everything's been done. There won't be any major construction of port facilities. What are we interested in? Naturally, in boosting cargo turnover. This would mean new terminals and various processing plants. This is our priority now that the infrastructure has been put into place. I want to add that a law has been adopted, introducing a special compensation scheme for up to 50 percent of investment through various tax discounts, starting with early 2002.

What is the port doing to attract container cargo?

The first stage of the Nord Natie Ventspils Terminals, receiving containers, ro-ro and general cargo, has been built and put into commission. The construction of the second stage will begin as soon as the first stage starts working at full capacity. We are completely ready for this.  

Speaking specifically about container cargo, the port together with terminals is working with different shipping companies. Container flow is growing but not fast enough. 

Recently, coal has joined the variety of cargo being reloaded at Ventspils...

This is Russian cargo destined for Europe. Coal is not a new product for our port. It's rather a well-forgotten thing from the past. Resumed coal transits from Russia to Europe are in their third year now. The business goes well with coal growing into an important cargo for Ventspils.

What would you say to potential customers from faraway Kazakhstan?  

Terminals which are private companies have made significant investments, upgrading their businesses, and now are looking forward to cooperation with Kazakh partners. The first would be Ventspils Nafta and Ventbunkers, being ready to receive crude oil. Then there's Ventspils Tirdzniecibas Osta (Ventspils Trade Port) with its experience in doing business with Kazakhstan. And Nord Natie Ventspils Terminals container terminal, a joint venture set up with Belgium's Nord Natie company from Antwerp.

We are convinced that Ventspils will be a good partner. We also know that Kazakhstan intends to double its oil production in the next few years and hope part of this cargo will be shipped through our port.  

We also expect a cargo turnover increase following the unification of railway rates. The move would be to the benefit of not only Latvia and Kazakhstan but Russia too, as it would result in growing transit through the Russian Federation. Philosophically, this would also be right since Russia was, is and will be a giant transit country and will be making much money from this. I want to add that Ventspils port is a member of the Trans-Siberian coordination council.  

The North-South corridor is also very important. Kazakhstan is an important transit country, providing links to other Asian regions, China first of all.  We see great prospects there for cooperation in cargo turnover to intensify cargo flow, containers in particular, along the new Silk Road.

We regard mutual understanding and cooperation between Kazakhstan, Russia and Latvia as important elements in the interests of all three countries. Without Russian support, these projects will not be as effective.