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Changing the spirit of the 90s: has the time come?

Nov 22, 2011 from 14:00 till 16:30

On November 22, 2011 the American Chamber of Commerce in Latvia supported by its partners – SSE Riga and Gefco Baltic – held a seminar in the AmCham Outlook series to discuss the regional competitiveness and efficiency of the Latvia’s transportation sector in general and its ports in particular.

Invited experts examined how ports across Europe are developing and what forms of port management are chosen in various parts of Europe. In addition, they addressed both the major obstacles and benefits for investors operating in the Latvian ports.

Joining the debate were the following experts:

  • Patrick Verhoeven, Secretary General, European Sea Ports Organization (ESPO);
  • Edgars Suna, Director of Marketing Department, Riga Free Port Authority;
  • Marin Hili, Chairman of Hili Company Limited and Chairman of the Baltic Container Terminal;
  • Arturs Spigulis, Attorney at Law and Partner at Spigulis & Kukainis Law Firm.

The event was moderated by AmCham Vice President Romans Baumanis.

Patrick Verhoeven presented recent findings of the ESPO Fact-finding report on the port governance across the EU. He concluded his presentation with a hope that the third EU attempt in 2013 to introduce the legal framework on market access to port services will be successful. According to Verheoven, the ports package will help harmonize the existing challenges in the European ports.

Edgars Suna gave a thorough presentation on the further development and activities of Riga Free Port. He named Riga Port as the largest and most dominant port in the region and stressed its strategic geographical position, in addition to the increasing growth of cargo turnover.

Marin Hili shared his own experience in Latvian, Maltese and Italian ports from an investor’s point of view on what makes port investments attractive.

Arturs Spigulis, drawing from his law firm clients’ experience, gave a foreign investor’s perspective on major practical obstacles while working in Latvian ports and laid out his recommendations for necessary improvements in the current legal framework regulating port business.

In order to increase competitiveness of the entire transport system and to generate benefits for the state and the society at large, should the Latvian port authorities be better structured and how – was one of the main issues discussed by the panel. Mr. Verhoeven emphasized that regardless of ownership structure, what works best perhaps is the form of corporatization of a port authority with a clear and accountable conduct towards the public, and a clear legal framework, which sets out the responsibilities and the decision-making process. According to him, transparency is a key element.

The main conclusions from the discussion indicated that on several levels there is a feeling something is to change. From the EU perspective a new directive with regard to ports regulation is on its way, while from the new Latvian government’s side there are declarations of intentions to improve the corporate governance in ports.

“We would like that Latvian ports are like the golden eggs for the economy, from which both businesses as well as public at large can benefit from. What we don’t want to do by haste reforms is to kill the goose,” summarized moderator Romans Baumanis.

Following the event, information on the main issues discussed along with suggestions will be sent to the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Transport.

Earlier this year Foreign Investor Council in Latvia (FICIL) submitted a position paper on Sustainable mobility to the Government aiming at developing the transportation sector of Latvia, including its ports (available here, case study on Port authorities Page 3-5). .

In addition, the declaration of the new government supports the development of the transportation and logistics sector and its ports by improving their governance and efficiency (available HERE, page 11).

To view the presentation of Edgars Suna.
To view the presentation of Marin Hili.
To view the presentation of Arturs Spigulis.
To view the presentation of Patrick Verhoeven.

To view the video click here.

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