However, that was not always the case. It is only 100 years since the port territorially shifted from Germany to Lithuania, and the growth to today’s capacities is only recent. In previous centuries, most trade was handled via the Port of Gdańsk, Königsberg, and Riga. But as the Port of Königsberg was gradually losing its importance, Klaipeda established itself as the major trading center in the region.
Location, location, location
The primary strength of Klaipeda is its location. In terms of logistics, it is highly convenient to transport goods from Eastern Europe or the Middle East to the West through Klaipeda. The port has trade relations with 70 countries – all the leading ports of the Western and Eastern world and some goods come by train from distant places like Mongolia and China.
The port generates around 6% of Lithuania’s GDP, which is around EUR 4 billion annually. Interestingly, the Port of Klaipeda was steadily growing even when neighboring ports had troubles due to the war in Ukraine. Last year, the port surpassed 1 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent cargo unit) container handling capacity for the first time ever. The only port in the region which can boast of such figures in 2022 is the Port of Gdańsk.
But how are such numbers achieved? The essential reason behind the success is the diversification of imported and exported goods, focusing not only on Lithuania but neighboring countries as well. For instance, Klaipeda Port handles grain, which arrives from Latvia, Poland, and Ukraine, as well as from Lithuanian farmers.
It is a similar situation with imported cargo, which is then transported to Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and Ukraine. The Klaipeda LNG (liquefied natural gas) terminal is a security guarantee for Lithuania; however, it is also a cargo distribution center. The unloaded gas reaches consumers in Lithuania, as well as Latvia, Estonia, and Poland. In this way, Klaipeda Port is steadily turning from a local port to a regional hub.
A winning strategy
This strategy is paying off greatly. Container handling at Klaipeda Port increased by around 60% in 2022 compared to the previous year. The result is phenomenal, especially considering that total container handling between ports on the eastern Baltic coast, including those in Russia, has fallen by as much as 27% over 2022.
“This year, we reached a record of 1 million TEUs. Such cargo volume proves that we certainly have the strength, opportunities, and ideas on how to replace the flow from the East,” said Algis Latakas, the Director of Klaipeda Port.
Thus, the Lithuanian economy alone is by far not sufficient to boost the cargo growth in Klaipeda Port, especially in these times of greater geopolitical unrest. Klaipeda Port has begun to focus on the surrounding countries and markets increasingly and must continue to do so to grow into a major port distribution center in the Baltics.