The eighth edition of the annual Transport Week conference concluded on Thursday, last week. The event, which gathered nearly 400 participants during three days of intense discussions and networking, tackled topics related to planning and financing of port development projects, as well as opportunities presented to the European logistics sector by the New Silk Road initiative.
Smart money – investing in port infrastructure
Adam Mikołajczyk, Head of the Economic Development Department at the Pomeranian Voivodeship Marshal’s Office, opened the conference touching upon Gdańsk’s and Poland’s place on the Baltic and European transport landscape. Due to hard work, investments supported both regionally and from the side of the European Union and quick decision-making, Gdańsk now has the chance to become a major transport hub.
The opening session also saw a letter from the Polish Minister for Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation, Marek Gróbarczyk, being read by a representative of the Ministry, Michał Wójcik, Director of the Department for International Cooperation. It contained an affirmation of the importance and relevance of both of the main conference topics for the Ministry.
David Bull, Principal Consultant at Ocean Shipping Consultants delivered the first keynote speech of the day, offering a broader overview of the current situation on the port market. He underscored the pressure to constantly adapt and stay ahead of the market needs, which the ports operate under on daily basis.
What followed was a glimpse at some of the legal impact of trends influencing the industry at the moment, presented by Martin Sandgren, Partner at Ince & Co. Among the points mentioned were cyber-security regulations, a look at data as currency or asset and insurability related to digitalization in ports, increased regulations and political pressure surrounding environmental sustainability, as well as how volumes are affected by trade wars, port and city integration and foreign investment control.
The opening session ended with the participants’ attention being once again directed towards the Baltic region and Poland, with a focused analysis of the port market dynamics centered around Polish and Baltic ports. In his keynote speech, Bogdan Ołdakowski, CEO at Actia Forum, the organizer of the event, mentioned the high activity characterizing the Polish ports when it comes to infrastructural investments and the overall dynamic growth in terms of container turnover which the Baltic region enjoys in comparison to the European average.
Session II was all about specific examples of some of the more interesting port development projects underway in the region. First was a brief overview of the investments plans of the Port of Gdynia, featuring the deepening of the approach fairway and the internal waters, construction of a public ferry terminal and redevelopment of the railway access to the western part of the port among others. Improvement of hinterland connectivity, construction of new quays and investment are development have also been mentioned in the presentation by the second Polish port, namely Ports of Szczecin and Świnoujście.
A project which has been in development for quite some time now has been presented by the Ports of Stockholm. In their overview of the current work progress of the Stockholm Norvik Port project, they highlighted the complex nature of such endeavors and perhaps too ambitious approach of some of the other ports. Environmental needs have been noted as one of the reasons for the development of outer port projects, an issue directly picked-up on by the session’s last speaker. Ingemar Gustavsson, Business Unit Manager at Actemium, one of the conference sponsors, shared with the audience the benefits which come from integrating solutions such as on-shore power supply from the very beginning of the planning phase.
Some of the above topics recurred in a speech by Steve Wray, Associate Director at WSP, who examined possible forms of investment among various other topics. He also took it upon himself to identify some of the risks linked to development projects, including the need by the port authorities to actually sell the investment in order to attract possible investors and allow the latter to have a larger say in operational and phasing matters.
The speech has been directly followed by a discussion panel, featuring representatives of the European Commission, ESPO, DCT Gdańsk, EBRD, the Polish Development Fund and the French Embassy in Warsaw. The discussion focused on the intricacies of project financing. The importance to consider social and environmental aspects has been underscored, especially in view of their direct impact on evaluation of a project’s feasibility. The panelists also mentioned the need to concentrate investments whenever possible, as diluting the effort will negatively affect the chances for successful completion.
The last session of the day was dedicated to topics less concerned with financing issues and more with the planning itself. Erik Griffiths, Architect at Rundquist Arkitekter, gave some interesting insights regarding the integration of a functioning port into a functioning town. The issue has been further explored by the Port of Helsinki - city expansion and how it limits the space available to the ports. The topic will only become more relevant as cities all over Europe and the world continue to grow.
The session ended with another topic rapidly gaining relevance. In his presentation, Andrew Huxley, Regional Development Director at the TT Club, examined the maritime supply chain cyber threat, highlighting the fact that ports are a very lucrative target for cyber-crimes and that such attempts are a question of when rather than if.
Taking a tour along the New Silk Road
After a most charming networking cocktail party, the participants gathered once again on the second day for a trip along the New Silk Road. The first keynote speech was delivered by dr Indra Vonck, Sr Port Exert at Deloitte Port Services. Despite the still standing need to clearly define the full extent of the New Silk Road, it carries a range of opportunities for the European and Baltic logistics sector, including record inflow of capital and a substantial multiplier effect for well-executed infrastructure investments.
What followed was an analysis of trade and investment between the Nordic-Baltic countries and China, prepared by a representative of the Vytautas Magnus University. As of right now China isn’t particularly active in the aforementioned region, with the country not placing in the top 10 investors list in any of the Baltic and Nordic countries, and the overall investment level in the region falling by 37% last year.
The session wrapped up with the attention of the participants being once again turned to the maritime sector, with a representative of the Polish Ministry of Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation giving the audience a broader perspective on the role of European seaports within the Belt and Road Initiative.
The view once again shifted towards the global impact of the Silk Road after the break, as Przemysław Myszka, Editor-in-Chief at the Baltic Transport Journal and third day’s moderator, talked about how it influences the global agenda. China is a critical investor in many countries worldwide, e.g. being the main trade partner in Africa and a number of lands in the Middle East. The Belt and Road Initiative and the New Silk Road allow China to take a more proactive, trendsetting stance internationally.
In order to do so, China will also need to step-up its game when it comes to transparency of cargo flow along the route. The flow itself will have to be further optimized. Both can be achieved by enabling the Internet of Things (IoT) and intermodal connectivity along the New Silk Road, a topic tackled by a representative of Inmarsat during the session’s second presentation.
The block concluded with Christoph Szakowski, Managing Partner at LogCon East, taking the stage in order to offer an overview of regional strategies of 3rd party- logistics providers. He stated choosing the right trade corridor and proper analysis of the selected route with help of experienced consultants, as well as long-term planning characterized by patience and taking cultural differences into account among the suggested solutions for logistics companies wishing to benefit from the New Silk Road.
The conference’s last session featured presentations from the point of view of rail operators. Stephen Archer, CEO at Baltic Rail offered his company’s take on fast access connections to Central Europe also examining the aspects based on which cargo forwarders choose between rail, road and sea connections. Carsten Pottharst, Managing Director at InterRail, took the issue further and attempted to answer whether Central Europe could be the gateway to the Far East. While capacity exists, along stable and reliable connections to a variety of destinations, it is important to take possible geopolitical factors, such as the embargo on Russia and the impact of highly varying weather conditions along the routes into account.
Short sea intermodal, LNG value chain and cross-border cooperation
Transport Week wouldn’t be the same without a broad range of side-events taking place during its course. The audience had the chance to learn more about issues related to short sea intermodal connections, safety and innovative technologies surrounding the LNG value chain, as well as ways to improve and finance innovative transport practices based on cross-border cooperation.
Our partners this year included Namiary, the publisher of the magazine “Namiary na Morze i Handel”, the Maritime University of Szczecin and the Go LNG project, as well as the Interreg South Baltic programme.
It’s not just about the presentations
Every year Transport Week offers its participants a broad range of networking activities. This year was no exception, with delegates arriving before the main event having the opportunity to enjoy a glass of wine and the beautiful interior of Gdańsk’s Town Hall.
Naturally, that wasn’t all. Just like last year the Olivia Sky Club opened its doors for the participants during the networking cocktail taking place after the second day of the event. Our colleagues over at the Baltic Transport Journal were also there, once again awarding the Baltic Trendsetters’ Club Certificates during their annual gala. And let’s simply say that the after-party hasn’t disappointed either.
The Transport Week will return next year.