Latvian and German port experts gather for the first German-Latvian Maritime Forum in Riga


A59A9262Ziemelblazma Culture Palace in Riga, the Latvian capital was recently the venue for a meeting between numerous representatives of the Ports of Liepaja, Riga, Ventspils, Lübeck, Kiel and Hamburg.

This was hosted by the three Latvian ports and Port of Hamburg Marketing (HHM) and for Marina Basso Michael, Head of Market Development for the Baltic Region and Eastern Europe for HHM, and Axel Mattern, CEO of HHM, Riga, it was an excellent place to hold the first “German-Latvian Maritime Forum”.

The two HHM representatives pointed out that current topics and challenges on the overall economic development of the Baltic region closely link all the ports participating in the event. Mutual briefing and readiness for discussion are leading to greater cooperation and understanding among ports that are competitors, but also specialise in very different directions.

“We are delighted to have been able, for the first time, to attract all three of Latvia’s ports as partners for the event. Against the background of the trade sanctions still in force and the tight economic situation in Russia, Latvia’s increased foreign trade with the USA, China and other countries in the EU as well, has developed remarkably steadily,” said Marina Basso Michael.

The significance of transit traffic with Russia and other states means that the logistics sector is of great importance in Latvia, contributing around 10% of national GDP.

In his words of welcome, Andis Ameriks, Deputy Mayor of Riga and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Riga Freeport Authority, alluded to the shared history of the Hanseatic cities of Riga, Lübeck and Hamburg.

The German Ambassador, Rolf Schütte, used his speech to mention how gratified he was about the excellent attendance at this first maritime forum, thanking Port of Hamburg Marketing and the Latvian ports for their strong commitment. In their presentations, port and logistics experts from both countries reported on current developments and discussed the economic opportunities and prospects for the ports and the region.

Andris Maldups, Head of the Transit Department at the Latvian Ministry of Transport, supplied an overview of the state of the transport sector in his country and welcomed the Forum as a fine platform for the ports to exchange their experience. Lutz Birke, a member of the Executive Management Board of HPA – Hamburg Port Authority – briefed his audience on the digitalization in the port that is opening up substantial opportunities for boosting efficiency.

“The Forum in Riga was a tremendous opportunity. We enjoyed a highly valuable exchange with our colleagues from Riga, especially on the topic of cruises. I feel that Hamburg and Riga could cooperate more closely in this area and learn much from each other, since a sustainable cruise business is of great importance for such city-centre ports as Riga and Hamburg. The EU project ‘Green Cruise Port’ headed by HPA is an important platform for this,” reported Lutz Birke.

In the concluding speech, Prof Dr Sebastian Jürgens, Managing Director of Lübecker Hafen-Gesellschaft port operating company, addressed the importance of the ferry services between Lübeck and the Latvian ports: “Lübeck is seen as the leading pooling centre for cargo flows between Germany and Latvia. Trade relations between the Baltic States and Russia offer immense potential. For us, the expansion of mutual relations is of great importance. This joint Forum offered a good opportunity to meet business partners from the ports of Ventspils and Liepaja and to discuss new joint projects. Among these were the further development of existing ferry services and joint schemes for hinterland services.”

A platform discussion featuring Oskars Osis, Freight Commercial Manager for Stena Line Freight Scandinavia, Axel Mattern, CEO of HHM, Michel Intorf of HHLA marketing, Janis Lapins, Deputy CEO of the Port of Liepaja, Leonids Loginovs, CEO Freeport of Riga Authority and Imants Sarmulis, CEO Freeport of Ventspils Authority, assessed and discussed, from various angles, the repercussions of the existing trade restrictions caused by sanctions on the transport and logistics sector in the Baltic region, as well as the effects of the new Chinese ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative.

“This joint event brought numerous port experts to Riga and boosted our mutual exchange of information and experience. New business does not exactly grow on trees and such meetings offer potential for discussing new projects during the various encounters,” stressed Imants Sarmulis from Ventspils.

His port colleague, Leonids Loginovs from Riga, added: “The changes in worldwide freight flows, the intermeshing of all modes of transport and the measures to promote environmental protection affecting all of us present ports throughout Europe with the same challenges. This is what makes an exchange of experience on successful examples in practice, and the pooling of all our efforts to master outstanding challenges, of such great importance.”

The first German-Latvian Maritime Forum, preceded by a joint press conference organised by the hosts and attended by numerous representatives of the Latvian media, was rated by over 120 participants as extremely successful.

“For the Port of Hamburg and many of our member companies, Latvia is an important trading partner in the Baltic region. For Latvia, Port of Hamburg performs a hub function as a highly efficient hub port for seaborne foreign trade. Through the feeder services with Latvian ports, Hamburg with its dense network of liner services to all regions of the world offers superb opportunities for shipping cargo,” said Axel Mattern, CEO of HHM.