Binding ports together

The collapse of the Soviet Union not only led to the liberation of many Eastern European countries, but also allowed their independence to seek free association between them, in order to advance the economic and social opportunities for the geographical regions they share. The Baltic Ports Organization (BPO) is an example of one such association. “It was established in 1991, with the aim to make a ‘bridge’ between ports from Scandinavia and Finland, and ports from unified Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Russia,” Secretary General Bogdan Oldakowski tells us. “The BPO has also been active in training and in transferring know-how to ports from these countries. Over time, the strategy of the organisation inevitably changed, and we are now more focused on lobbying activities with EU institutions, as well as on following maritime regulations and trying to introduce the Baltic port industry to new green policies,” he details. With the Port of Mukran (in Germany) having joined the association earlier in 2018, the BPO now has 42 member ports from nine countries surrounding the Baltic Sea.

Bogdan reports a busy year in 2017 and highlights some of the principal activities the organisation took part in: “We have been involved in a dialogue about transport policies and the role of the ports with the European Commission and other EU bodies, especially the specific environmental regime in the Baltic, as well as how the maritime industry adjusts to the higher standards. We also initiated a port debate in the European Parliament explaining the ports’ role in the EU transport sector, and specifically in the Baltic maritime transport segment. Furthermore, we have been very active in promoting LNG (liquefied natural gas) as a potential fuel for shipping in the future, as well as LNG bunkering. In July, we were selected as a member of the newly-established European Ports Forum. We are also members of the European Sustainable Shipping Forum, so we can defend the Baltic Sea region’s cause across various platforms.”

Following the organisation’s commitment to promote the sustainable development of maritime transport, and increase the Baltic Sea region’s global competitiveness, Bogdan explains how BPO’s recent undertakings will add their share to the mission’s successful completion: “The advanced port network in the Baltic makes it easy for shippers to move cargo within the region, and this has been achieved thanks to the creation of a modern port infrastructure and high quality services offered in Baltic ports.

“We recognise maritime transport as a very efficient and environment-friendly way of transporting goods and people. On the one hand, our goal is to keep an eye on the EU transport policy and how the overall transport is financed, in order to ensure that the Baltic ports receive fair support in comparison with the other modes of transports. On the other hand, we aim to show that maritime transport provides viable green solutions for shippers. This is why we launched our policy paper ‘The Baltic Sea as a model region for green ports and maritime transport’,” Bogdan comments.

As Bogdan mentioned previously, the Baltic Ports Organization has demonstrated ongoing interest in promoting LNG as a new fuel for ships, with the view of making it more competitive both in terms of availability and pricing in the market. This vision has been supported by the successful completion of the first two phases of the ‘LNG in Baltic Sea Ports’ project, whose implementation framework began in 2012 and ran until 2015. The project originated as a response to the International Maritime Organization’s decision to establish new sulphur content limits in marine fuels sailing in Emission Control Areas (covering the Baltic, the North Sea and the English Channel) from 1 January 2015. Bogdan outlines the goals the BPO pursues in this project: “It is a good platform for us to present the port’s view and contribute to the promotion of LNG. We see LNG as one of the cleaner fuels ships can use in the future, and we believe that our activities can contribute to its wider use in the Baltic. Many of our ports have already devised plans on how to make LNG bunkering efficient, safe and feasible. Alas, the ship owners are still slow to show their interest in this means of fuelling. Nevertheless, the Baltic ports want to send a clear signal that if anyone plans to build LNGfuelled ships, they are more than welcome to come to the Baltic.“ The establishment of bunker stations has been a key feature of the LNG project, and Bogdan updates us on the most recent developments: “Due to a new legal requirement, LNG is now to be bunkered from track cisterns. What is more, new LNG bunkering vessels are being planned, or already launched. It is also worth mentioning that some of the ports are planning onshore LNG stations, as well.”

Bogdan acknowledges that decisions about the EU’s next financial period (2021- 2027) are already being made, and he sets the BPO’s participation in the following areas as a priority for this year: “We would like to focus on the dialogue we have with the European Commission on the EU’s transport infrastructure funding scheme, and the role of the Baltic ports in it.” The organisation also maintains the view that it should attempt to influence the functioning of the CEF (Connecting Europe Facility) – a key EU funding instrument, in order to ensure that the projects targeting the development of the Baltic port industry, gain sufficient access to funding. Hence the BPO will take part in the public consultations on CEF2, starting in March 2018. “We would like to share our experience and give some advice on how the financing of the transport infrastructure on EU-level should be structured. We are currently preparing a report that we are going to present at the forum, highlighting our findings from the CEF fund for the 2014- 2020 financial period,” Bogdan clarifies. The BPO is also set to hold its annual debate in the European Parliament, in late-April, in which it will open up discussions surrounding past experiences and recommendations for the future of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) policy.

Baltic Ports Organization
Established in 1991
Actively proposes green policies for the Baltic port industry
Promotes LNG as an alternative fuel for ships