BCC’ 2010 – under the sign of Gdansk
There was barely a single speech during the last year's edition of the Baltic Container Conference that uttered the word "crisis". However, the 4th edition of BCC'2010 (held on 9th and 10th of March) almost entirely focused on the significant drop in container sea shipping. At the invitation of Actia Forum, (with the Port of Gdansk Authority SA acting as a partner to BCC), about 130 delegates representing major trade players on the Baltic Sea - such as container terminals, operating and forwarding companies as well as shipping analysts - gathered at the Polish Baltic Philharmonic in Gdansk. Attending the event, there were also high standing experts involved in decision-making about the geographical shape of sea shipping. Their participation coupled with the high substantive level of proceedings provided the best evidence that BCC remains the most influential event promoting container trade in the Baltic Sea region.
In her keynote address, Deputy Minister Anna Wypych-Namiotko, spoke extensively about the urgent need - in view of the crisis - to simplify all border procedures, which make it difficult for our ports to stand the competition of other European ports. Deputy Mayor of Gdansk, Andrzej Bojanowski, in charge of the city's economic policy, announced that the measures and investments conducive to port's development should be continued. PGA SA Vice-President of the Board, Slawomir Wrzesniak, reminded the audience of the memorable date for the Gdansk port that saw the arrival of the first container ship launching a new direct deep-sea container service from Asia to Gdansk. All subsequent speakers agreed unanimously that the 4th of January 2010 marked the ground-breaking date for the Baltic shipping industry.
- For a thousand years, Gdansk has operated as a port of considerable significance - started PGA SA Marketing and Promotion Director, Julian Skelnik, who is also currently heading the Baltic Ports Organisation (BPO) and holding the position of Vice-Chairman of the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO). - The port's location at the intersection of major commercial routes recognized by the European Union along with Brussels's approval of the arguments in favour of constructing transport corridors with port's key role have presented Gdansk with another opportunity for growth. The economic slowdown has bypassed the Gdansk port and - although it may not rank among the top players in terms of container throughput - it is now in the best position to catch up with the leaders.
- The rapid growth in container freight - said, among others, Dr. Maciej Matczak of the Maritime Academy in Gdynia - reached its peak in 2008, with nearly 140 millionTEU's shipped by sea. The previous year's results showed a drop by 20 million TEU's. The key directions in the world's commercial exchange are best reflected by the fact that among the top ten container port facilities worldwide, Europe is represented only by Rotterdam. However, the Dutch shipping and oil company of APM - Maersk remains the unrivalled leader in the sea shipping industry.
Consequently, the most looked-forward-to presentation among the BCC' 2010 participants was the one delivered by Maersk Line Operations Manager Eastern Central Europe, Dominik Landa, This shipping tycoon - as widely publicized in the trade press - has also suffered from the global economic slowdown. Nonetheless, it is successfully implementing remedies that not only help retain its position, but also enable the company to expand its business offer.
- Inaction - claimed D. Landa - may generate further losses. We exert every effort to maintain financial discipline and reduce error risk to the minimum. At the same time, we look for reserves and cost-cutting measures which will enable us to expand our business offer. For example, reducing the velocity of our vessels will bring considerable savings on fuel consumption of up to 30 percent for the entire Maersk fleet. This will allow us to freeze the rates and will notably drive up the demand for our services. Additionally, we make long-term investments aimed at overcoming the crisis in further perspective. The direct container service from Asia to Gdansk represents a milestone for Poland's sea freight.Never before has the Far East been... so close. Maersk considers Poland as another key European market. On that basis, we can expect the long-term sustainability of the service and high reliability of freight projections. We have pulled the door open for new business and new investments and projects between the Far East on the one hand, and Poland and the southern region of the Baltic Sea on the other.
This is a significant statement that tones down speculations about the so-called "Gdansk experiment" ventured by Maersk Line. The vast potential represented by DCT Gdansk SA, which handles ocean-going container ships at the Gdansk port, as well as its already developed plans for growth (as confirmed in a speech given by DCT Sales and Marketing Manager, Danuta Bilat) allow for the optimistic outlook into the future. In this context, even the charts drawn by ocean shipping consultant at OSC Ltd, Steve Wray, which seemed to build on rather... overly bold assumptions, gained in probability. Their exaggerated optimism works favourably for Gdansk. Such a conclusion of the BCC's 4th edition is the kind of a cheerful message that we all need the most. Even more so since the debates - thanks to the Maersk's expanded service from Shanghai to Gdansk - proceeded under the sign of the Gdansk port.