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Friday 23.03.2018 | Name days: Mirdza, Žanete, Žanna

BATL: Lembergs’ policy would cause most companies to go bankrupt

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUNo one but the criminally accused and infamous resident of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs and his associates in Ventspils, Freeport management boards, Saeima, Latvian government and ministries and important national transit companies are responsible for running Latvia’s transit industry into the ground, notes the management of Baltic Association-Transport and Logistics and its associated companies.

BATL categorically denies the statements made by Lembergs in an interview to LETA, in which he said that the 8.9% decline in transshipped cargoes at Ventspils Freeport is related to the negative impact caused by sanctions against Russia and the latter’s response to them. In his usual manner, Lembergs blames others. This time he has decided to blame companies whose assets have been entrusted to Rudolph Meroni by the Prosecutors General’s office, as BNN was told by the association.

BATL draws attention to the fact that the criminally accused Aivars Lembergs has been using state resources to pay for lobbies (Large Ports Association; Latvian Transit Business Association [both are funded from budgets of Latvian freeports]; Transit and Logistics Council of Large Ports and others), all of which have managed to secure loyalty of Laimdota Straujuma’s government in the potential interests of the aforementioned criminally accused entrepreneur. Under influence of this forceful lobby, state representatives continue to intentionally ignore decisions by Latvian Competition Council, State Audit and Latvian courts. They refuse to follow recommendations provided by the World Bank, listen to opinions of associations that represent private companies working in the transit industry. Instead of resolving problems that plague the country’s transit segment, state representatives actively work to deform the project headed by the European Commission in regard to the country’s railway and ports, offering ‘nightmares’ instead of actually functional solutions and openly lying about having discussed proposals in depth.

BATL urges all state representatives to stop serving Lembergs. The association reminds that it was the action (or rather inaction) of officials from Ventspils Freeport and Latvijas dzelzceļš that served to frighten away foreign investors from Latvia’s transit market. For example, Belaruskalij Company, which had worked in cooperation with Kālija parks in Ventspils, has stopped providing its services to at Ventspils Freeport because of unreasonably high railway service tariffs. In response to this, Belaruskalij had said that actions taken by Latvijas dzelzceļš only serve to ruin the perspective of using Latvia’s transport corridor for exports. According to estimates, Latvijas dzelzceļš did not receive EUR 7.5 million as a result of the company’s departure. Losses of Kālija parks are estimated at EUR 7 million. Officials of Ventspils Freeport took the side of Latvijas dzelzceļš in all this. During a press-conference that was organized to cover this matter, Lembergs had announced that requests submitted by Kālija parks and the Belarus export company to maintain railway tariffs in 2009 on the level of 2008 had been unjustified.

On top of that, in order to completely halt all business activities of Kālija parks, Lembergs had even expressed the wish to build an alternative terminal in Riga.

In regard to the reduction of Ventspils Freeport’s competitiveness, BATL believes that by losing influence with certain commercial companies present at the port, Lembergs has turned his hungry gaze at companies present at Riga Freeport. This has resulted in the use of lobby mechanisms and unfair railway tariff policy in order to accomplish artificial increase of competitiveness of Riga Freeport at the expense of Liepaja and Ventspils. One of the actual reasons for the decline in cargoes at Ventspils Freeport is the methodology for calculating fees for the use of public railway infrastructure for transportation approved in 2006 and employed by Latvijas Dzelzceļš. The unfair tariff policy is one of the most notable factors that prevent companies working at Ventspils Freeport from attracting new clients, new cargoes and diversify cargo segments.

Lembergs lies. This is proven both by the silence of Ventspils Freeport in regard to the clearly unfair railway tariff policy (which lasted for eight years) and work results of companies present at the port in spite of Lembergs’ attempts to paralyze them. This includes Ventbunkers – one of the largest taxpayers in Latvia and the largest in Ventspils municipality’s budget in 2013, as noted by representatives of the association.

In total, Ventbunkers had transshipped a total of 4.3 million tons of oil products in 2013 (40% more compared with 2012). The company’s clean profits reached EUR 20 million in 2013. In 0214, the company’s terminal transshipped a total of 2.4 million tons of oil products. Ventbunkers had achieved especially good results in the handling of dark oil products in 2014, increasing handled volumes by 42% in comparison with 2013. The company’s profits reached EUR 15 million last year.

By allowing Lembergs to continue his disastrous policy in relation to Ventspils Freeport, it can be safely said that the majority of companies working there will be pushed to the brink of bankruptcy. Although he can be blamed for most of the disasters that have struck once the most influential and important port in the region, because lost control means lost opportunity to make money, Lembergs will likely cast blame on others for ruining perspective companies, as he always does. And this will result in the fulfilment of one of Lembergs’ dreams to make Ventspils a port for tourist yachts, earn money in Riga Freeport and graciously declare «I have been great. And so I will be!» concludes BATL.


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