Green Opportunities in Baltic Sea Region
"The Transport Week 2022 conference concluded today in Gdynia, Poland after two days of insightful discussions related to the current geopolitical situation in Europe, energy transition, their impact on the transport sector and many other relevant topics. 200 participants gathered in the Courtyard Gdynia Waterfront hotel to listen to expert presentations and discussion panels at the event’s first return to the physical realm after a two year break." - summarizes Transport Week organizers.
Opening the event, Gdynia’s Mayor, Ms Katarzyna Gruszecka-Spychała underscored the city’s openness for new business trends, its readiness to seize opportunities. She also mentioned the difficult nature of the current times in view of the geopolitical and climate related issues.
These topics were immediately expanded upon during the first two keynote speeches, with Lars Jensen (Vespucci Maritime) and Bogdan Ołdakowski (Actia Forum) presenting a deep analysis of the aforementioned topics in context of the transport industry both globally and regionally.
While the ongoing conflict in Ukraine doesn’t have too much additional influence over the global trends in transport itself, unlike the COVID pandemic and the massive delays still plaguing the maritime sector, especially when it comes to the container market, its main consequence is the current skyrocketing of fuel prices.
As to the transport side of the story, carrier rates stabilization is prognosed to take about a year and will bring a new status quo, with rates admittedly much lower than the current levels, but still decidedly higher than before the pandemic hit.
The effects of war in the Ukraine, while not as visible on a global scale, have a big immediate impact on the Baltic Sea region. Between the suspension of trade with Russia, closing of the Ukrainian ports, Finland and Sweden joining the NATO, a new logistics map is being established in the CEE and the overall geopolitical map of Europe will continue to change.
The maritime industry is indeed in a challenging spot right now, with various climate regulations adding another layer to the story. Port need to prepare for the drops in fossil fuel related cargo and look for new business models. Various opportunities may present themselves for industrial ports in connection with policies such as the recent REPowerEU, a decision to ban the purchase, import and transfer of crude oil and certain petroleum products from Russia to the EU, or strictly environmentally driven packages, such as Fit for 55 or the European Green Deal.
The possibilities were considered in greater detail by representatives of ESPO, Port of Roenne and the Cluster of Hydrogen Technologies during one of the discussion panels focused on the eventual disappearance of fossil fuels from ports and their potential new role as green energy hubs. Some ports may profit from the dynamically developing offshore wind sector or look further into the future with opportunities related to alternative fuels, e.g. Hydrogen, Ammonia or liquefied natural gas (LNG), which enjoys a return to graces.
Ports need to take a proactive approach when it comes to preparations for the energy transition but the task isn’t easy. As long as there continue to be multiple possible solutions considered by cargo carriers, ports will have an very difficult time deciding where to place their bets when it comes to developing the necessary infrastructure.
Which sustainability related projects to go for was one of the topics of the discussion between representatives of the Port of Oslo and MTBS. It quickly became apparent that proper and thorough assessment is the key to success. These investments need to be treated like any other, as a business case, as they are just as complex and capital intensive as any port development project.
Thankfully, the sector can also count on the support of various tech companies, such as Awake.AI. Their tools, presented during the conference in a speech focused on the benefits and opportunities offered by artificial intelligence (AI), can help the maritime industry adapt and comply with the increasingly more stringent environmental regulations. Thus, cooperation and a cross-industry approach to these challenges remain essential.
Polish ports keep expanding
Port of Gdynia, the conference’s Strategic Partner, offered the participants a closer look at their long-term development strategy. Key takeaways included the maintaining of the universal, multipurpose character of the port, staying on top of benefits offered by modern technologies and solutions, further development of access quality and remaining environmentally responsible.
Representatives of the Port of Gdynia were also joined by Invest in Pomerania and the City of Gdynia during a panel exploring the potential of the Pomeranian region. Cooperation between the port and the city has always been close and is one of the fundaments of their success. This teamwork will continue to remain vital. With both the city and the port expanding, space will become limited, further underscoring the need for a smart and multifunctional approach from both sides.
A similar review of strategy elements was presented by the Port of Szczecin-Świnoujście, also drawing attention to, among other things, market conditions and demand, transport accessibility and spatial development plans of the associated port cities.
Second day's programme featured a deep-dive into the container, roro, ferry and passenger markets, with experts discussing their current state and the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Accompanied by a set of market overviews prepared and presented by Actia Forum, the panelists from DB Port Szczecin, Gdynia Container Terminal, HHLA International, Stena Line and Port of Gdynia tried to answer questions related to the current imbalance in the container sector and the recovery of the passenger market.