Vital support

Established in Copenhagen in October 1991, the Baltic Ports Organization (BPO) has remained true to its mission of strengthening the global competitiveness of maritime transport and the port industry within the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) by contributing to its economic, social and environmental developments. Keen to facilitate co-operation among the ports, BPO also monitors and improves the possibilities for shipping in the region while supporting its members and working pro-actively with relevant partners.

Registered in Estonia and headquartered in the Port of Tallinn, BPO operates in accordance to the Estonian law on non-profit associations and is well recognised within the BSR, EU bodies and other European regions. Working in these areas at a governmental level, BPO encourages trade from other European countries and represents the interests of the Baltic Sea ports towards EU institutions. Moreover, the organisation contributes to maintaining a clean environment within the Baltic Sea and promotes environmental management in member ports; to further enhance its role in environmental sustainability, BPO is actively involved in international discussions, notably via the BPO Environmental Working Group.

Although the organisation itself has witnessed little change since it was last featured in Shipping & Marine magazine in June 2015, BPO has come across new challenges within the Baltic shipping industry, as Julian Skelnik, Chairman of BPO and Foreign and Public Relations Director of the Port of Gdansk, discusses: “First of all, the Baltic Sea is in a Sulphur Emission Control Area (SECA) and there needs to be a lot of improvements when it comes to controlling these emissions; this is a problem for us as we would like an equal playing field for all ports in the Baltic Sea. Another issue is that the SECA policy is only in one part of Europe, while the other side doesn’t have to comply to these regulations; we therefore think there should be one law when it comes to controlling sulphur emissions in Europe.”

He continues: “The next challenge is the evident concentration of capital in the logistics chain, which consequently means there will be a smaller number of bigger ports in the logistics chain. Furthermore, there are many small ports of fisheries and so on that aren’t in the logistics chain as they aren’t loading and unloading goods; this means that small and medium sized ports in the Baltic are struggling as they have less cargo. These ports are important for local societies and local economies, which is why BPO is trying to come up with a solution to this problem. With new challenges coming up approximately every three months it is important that BPO carefully monitors situations and tries to respond quickly.”

One way the organisation stays ahead of the game when it comes to the transport sector is through research and science. For example, from 2007- 2013 the organisation studied the TEN-T (Trans-European Transport Networks) programme, which involved 32 motorways of the Seas (MoS) projects; 20 of which involved Baltic countries, with 13 of these 20 projects involving Baltic countries only, while the remaining seven involved joint action with other EU countries. With figures showing that previous TEN-T programme recognised the Baltic Sea as a maritime highway, BPO is now focused on initiating multiport projects for the new framework, which is lasting from 2014 to 2020 and based on interest expressed by ports in the region.

At the time of releasing the study, BPO had already identified opportunities with regards to projects involving environmental challenges, an area the organisation is strongly focusing on following the first implementation of sulphur limits that came into effect in January 2015. Since then, five ports in Sweden and Finland have decided to join forces to collaborate on port infrastructure development and environmental services, which will result in enhanced port infrastructure and a reduction in shipping’s impact on the environment. “When it comes to environmental standards, the Baltic is currently in a leading position, which is a great achievement,” highlights Julian. “We will have 11 new LNG powered ships going to Helsinki this year. One can predict, we will soon have a network of fuelling stations too in line with this growth in demand for LNG.”

Another way BPO finds solutions to issues within the Baltic Sea Region is through organising dedicated conferences, seminars and study visits, which enable members to share and gain valuable information when it comes to port operations and management as well as the environmental impact of port activities. The organisation will also soon be involved in a debate with MEP Merja Kyllonen, former Transport Minister of Finland, in European Parliament. Taking place on 5th April 2016, the debate ‘Baltic ports in TEN-T network – meeting the future’ will discuss a number of important subjects, including trends in the Baltic port market, investment needs in transport infrastructure and the Baltic as a green shipping region.

Moving forward, BPO will continue to inspire and support its members through the turbulent changes of the port industry in the hope of contributing to the establishment of strong trading relationships as well as positive economic, social and environmental developments within the BSR. The organisation will also be celebrating 25 years in operation and using this long-term experience to benefit its 48 existing members as well as any other ports that would like to join. “Our 25th anniversary is this year and it is the perfect time to start a new chapter,” says Julian. “With this in mind, we will be promoting our region and the stringent standards we adhere to show what we can offer to potential new members and port communities in other regions of Europe.”

Baltic Port Organization
Regional ports organisation

Celebrating 25th anniversary in September 2016

Aims to monitor and improve shipping opportunities in the Baltic Sea