Mr Algis Latakas, the new CEO of the Port of Klaipeda, told us this month about his recent appointment as CEO, the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the port, his view on the future potential of LNG, and the port’s efforts to become a “Green Port”. Read the whole interview below to discover the many other interesting topics he talked about!
Can you briefly tell us about the Port of Klaipeda? What are its main characteristics and challenges?
The Port of Klaipėda is the most important and largest transport hub in Lithuania, connecting sea, land and railway routes from the East to the West. It is a multipurpose, deep-water port, providing high quality services 24/7. The port can accommodate both Panamax and Post Panamax vessels.
14 large stevedoring companies, ship repair companies and ship building yards operate in the port and provide all types of marine business and cargo handling services. The turnover of cargoes of Klaipeda seaport reaches almost 50 million tons annually. The port of Klaipėda is the leader among the ports of the Baltic countries.
Our favourable geographical location is very important for our foreign partners. We have the shortest distance between the port and the most important industrial regions of the Eastern hinterland (Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, etc.) and the main shipping lines to major ports of Europe (Scandinavian countries and Germany). Intermodal shuttle trains connect the port with European, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Asian markets.
The Port’s well-coordinated maritime and hinterland connections, the Free Economic Zone (FEZ), the EU short-sea shipping network, and the wide-range logistic and industrial operations, ensure reliable and rapid intermodal transportation.
In the forthcoming decade, large-scale port expansion projects are planned in Klaipėda Port. At present, marine environment preservation and harmonious co-existence of urban communities and maritime industry are among our top priorities.
In June 2020, you became the new CEO of the Port of Klaipeda. How did you get into maritime transport? How did your career path lead to this position?
I have been pro-actively involved in maritime business since 2000 when I graduated from the International Maritime Academy in Italy, majoring in hazardous cargo handling. Later, I continued my studies at the ISM University of Management and Economics and the Norwegian Business Institute and obtained a Master’s Degree in Management.
For nearly 2 decades I have been working in the largest stevedoring company in Klaipeda. I was responsible for establishing the new Fertilizer Terminal and putting it into operation. In addition I chaired the LNG Terminal WorkGroup. A few years ago, I started a maritime business consultancy company which enriched my managerial experience and network of business contacts. The company focuses on implementing new port development projects in the Ukraine and Poland.
Earlier this year, I was appointed as CEO of Klaipeda Port. I believe that the competent and dedicated team of the Port and the support of the port community will help me in these new professional horizons.
What is your vision for the Port of Klaipeda for the next decade?
Our vision for the forthcoming decade is a smart, environmentally friendly port, which complies with the requirements of customers. In the nearest future, we intend to dredge the port waters up to -17 m. In the long term, we are planning land reclamation in the Southern and the Northern parts of the port.
Implementing the port investment projects is fundamental to maintaining and increasing the port’s competitiveness.
A proactive and client–orientated approach of all port stakeholders will generate cargo volumes. Port development in Klaipeda is carried out in close cooperation with the port users who identify the needs and priorities. Our vision is to have a port which would be equally attractive to all maritime industry players and neighbouring communities: a port with innovations and values, cargo carriers, safe for navigation and as environmentally friendly as possible.
The COVID-19 crisis is having a profound impact on the European economy and society. What has been the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the Port of Klaipeda? How has the Port prepared itself to guarantee that goods can continue to be handled in the port?
Sad to say, some sectors have been massively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the impact on cruise shipping being the most considerable due to travel restrictions and decline in demand among cruise passengers.
My true conviction is that in times of crisis, infrastructural investment projects should not be delayed or ceased. Continuous investments guarantee smooth and efficient port business. I am glad to say that notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic, not a single investment project has ceased in Klaipeda port.
The cruise and ferry business plays an important role in the Port of Klaipeda. The cruise sector has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. What have been the challenges so far? What needs to be done for the sector to recover?
2020 was meant to be the record year for cruise shipping in Klaipeda in terms of calls and number of passengers. The beginning of the season had seen 66 registered calls with over 80,000 passengers. Moreover, 2020 was planned to be the longest season, with the highest number of maiden calls.
Notwithstanding huge losses the cruise shipping has so far incurred, I am convinced that concerted efforts with all stakeholders will guarantee its safe and smooth recovery.
Today’s main focus is to work with cruise lines on safety matters and convey the message to potential travellers that cruise shipping is safe in order to restore the confidence of travellers in safety and security on board and in destinations. As soon as we have passengers’ confidence back, other industry-related services will recover.
Thanks to ESPO and all its members, the port authorities discussed and elaborated “Guidance on the gradual and safe resumption of operations of cruise ships”. This unprecedented situation unveiled the significant role of ESPO and its leadership to bring the industry together to cope with the COVID-19 crisis.
The Port of Klaipeda profiles itself as an LNG hub in the Baltic region. How do you see the future potential of LNG? Are you currently involved in any LNG-related projects?
Klaipeda State Seaport Authority, together with KN (“Klaipėdos nafta”), participates in the Blue Baltics project. The objective of the Blue Baltics project is to deploy the LNG infrastructure and provide the services of LNG bunkering in the Baltic Sea. Partnership with Polish oil and gas company PGNiG also opens up new opportunities for the use of LNG in the Baltic region. PGNiG started using the capacity of Klaipėda LNG reloading station in April 2020 and set out the first bunkering operation of LNG-powered ships. 10 such operations have been performed so far.
LNG has a lot of potential as it is a transitional or enabling source of energy according to the European Union zero pollution objective. Marine and heavy road transport fuels can be replaced by LNG, which is the cleanest fossil fuel. Except for LNG, no other alternatives which meet the environmental requirements exist so far for these industries.
The Port of Klaipeda is located on the North Sea -Baltic corridor of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). How has the Port benefitted from being part of this Corridor? What is the importance of EU funding for a Port like Klaipeda?
According to Commission Regulation (EU) 2017/1084 state aid for maritime ports could be increased from EUR 130 million eligible costs per access infrastructure project to EUR 150 million in a maritime port which is included in the work plan of a Core Network Corridor.
EU funding is very important for ports like Klaipeda, as investments are necessary, in particular for the adaptation of access infrastructure to ports to the increased size and complexity of the fleet and to stricter requirements on environmental performance.
The Port of Klaipeda is the biggest and most important Lithuanian transport hub. Can you describe the added value of the Port of Klaipeda to the city and the wider region/country?
The Port is very important in the Klaipėda region as it brings significant economic and social benefits. Port-related companies which operate in Klaipėda city employ around 20 % of employees in the city.
The impact of the Port is not limited to the Klaipėda region, social and economic benefits are also generated in other regions in Lithuania and in the entire country.
All port-related companies annually create more than 6% of Lithuania’s GDP. The infrastructure constructed by Klaipeda State Seaport Authority is important to the volume of Lithuanian transit and to the operations of the majority of key Lithuanian export sectors.
The Port of Klaipeda is part of the EcoPorts network. Can you briefly describe the port’s environmental policies? What is the Port of Klaipeda doing to reduce its environmental impact?
The Port of Klaipėda is in close vicinity of the city. Some stevedoring complexes are located less than 80 metres from residential houses. We have a lot of challenges to ensure that the port neighbourhood is environmentally friendly. The Port Authority is carrying out several studies and dust, sound and odour measuring stations are installed around the port territory, as we are constantly monitoring water, soil and air quality. Port operators are also investing in environmental protection measures.
Our goal is to achieve an environmentally-friendly and sustainable seaport, which is why we are now creating the „Green Port“ concept.