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Monday 19.02.2018 | Name days: Zane, Zuzanna
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VNT: there is a serious difference between theory and reality about doing business in Ventspils

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RURecently the Chairman of Ventspils City Council in his weekly videoconference stated that the type of cargo a terminal handles is secondary, while the compliance with environmental standards comes first.

Ventspils nafta termināls (VNT) follows exactly the same principle by focusing all efforts on the installation of a vapour recovery unit (VRU) that would not only contribute to higher environmental standards in Ventspils, but also create an opportunity for VNT to increase the volume of transhipped cargoes in Ventspils port.

VNT Managing Director Lars Pantzlaff emphasises: «As a result of the installation of the VRU, VNT plans to increase the range of products it is allowed to tranship. However, despite incorrect concerns raised by city officials, these new products cause no harm as their transhipment is only planned in connection with the use of the VRU. Such operation with similar products is already being performed by other companies in Ventspils Freeport and hence it cannot be considered as anything new.»

VNT believes that the board of Ventspils Freeport, represented also by four members of Ventspils City Council, could review the VRU related matters rather speedily, thus attesting the genuine interest of Ventspils Freeport Authority and Ventspils City Council in the speedy installation of the VRU and facilitating further progress of the project to the benefit of Ventspils residents. However, on the contrary, the Chairman of Ventspils City Council and Chairman of the board of Ventspils Freeport, in the interview with the television channel TV3 commented that the plans of VNT regarding the installation of the VRU could never come true

Lars Pantzlaff states: «We expressed our readiness to invest 5 million euro into the VRU a long time ago, and we live up to our promise. Regretfully, we hear statements of the Chairman of Ventspils City Council, who also performs duties of the Chairman of the board of Ventspils Freeport, regarding the likelihood of installing the VRU. This raises questions and doubt about the true intentions of leading officials in Ventspils and their commitment to raise environmental standards, welfare of local residents, and stable cargo flow through the port of Ventspils, thus also neglecting the interests of the state.»

Such mixed messages reveal the existing dual standards and the drastic difference between theory and reality, which negatively affect long-term business development opportunities and growth of economic activities in Ventspils in general, especially in current times of declining cargo volumes.

As previously reported, the information publicly announced by Ventspils Freeport Authority about VNT’s activities related to the conclusion of the contract on a lease of the land plot for installation of the Vapour Recovery Unit (VRU) and the invitation for VNT to participate in the development of the Freeport Regulations does not reflect the real situation.

VNT reminds that on February 22 VNT and JSC Ventbunkers submitted a joint application for the direct lease of the land plot in the area of jetties intended for the installation of the permanent VRU to the Ventspils Freeport Authority for the review.

In its first reply, Ventspils Freeport Authority informed VNT that the matter will be discussed during one of the upcoming meetings of Ventspils Freeport Board. However, on 12 April, VNT received a letter from Ventspils Freeport Authority stating that due to the arrest of JSC Ventbunkers shares in 2008 it cannot decide upon the joint application until this matter is settled in the legal manner.

Taking this into account, VNT addressed the criminal court board of Riga Regional Court on 26 April and received its ruling on 10 May. The ruling stated that Ventspils Freeport Authority has the right and authority to make any decisions related to the land plot in its possession and leased to JSC Ventbunkers.

VNT informed BNN that on 13 May, VNT submitted the document issued by the criminal court board of Riga Regional Court to Ventspils Freeport Authority, although Ventspils Freeport Authority should have requested and received this court resolution itself if doubting its rights or authority to decide upon the land plot possessed by Ventspils Freeport which would have saved significant time in the process.

For years, Ventspils City Council and Ventspils Freeport Authority have been continuously emphasizing to VNT the need to install a VRU. However, VNT has not seen either Ventspils City Council or Ventspils Freeport Authority showing any urgency to amend the Freeport regulations and include new requirements as to the VRU installation. Sudden urgency occurred only after VNT had publicly announced its firm plans to build the permanent VRU by November 2017.

In February 2016, Ventspils Freeport Authority invited Ventspils Freeport operators, also VNT, to participate in a meeting as to the plan of Ventspils Freeport to develop a smell reduction program considering the problem of smells during the loading of petroleum products.

During the initial meeting on February 4, Ventspils Freeport Authority assured the port terminals that they will be updated on progress related to this subject. As a follow-up, one week later, VNT was visited by the consultancy firm, appointed by Ventspils Freeport Authority, to gather further information for its research work. VNT emphasizes it has not received further invitations to any other meetings on this subject and was not aware of three meetings taking place, the company said.

Since February 2016, despite several inquiries by VNT as to the progress of the development of the program, regretfully no information regarding this subject has been shared by Ventspils Freeport Authority with VNT.

VNT stressed that that on 27 May, Ventspils Freeport Authority proposed to Ventspils City Council to make amendments to the Ventspils binding regulations No 9 «Ventspils Freeport Regulations» of 2 March 2012, without approaching VNT during the development of the regulations, even though for already six months VNT has been trying to receive answers in connection with its efforts to install a temporary and permanent VRU.

After the amendments to the Freeport Regulations were passed by Ventspils Freeport Authority on 27 May, VNT asked Ventspils City Council on 8 June to share the content of the document with VNT. On 30 June Ventspils City Council informed VNT that the draft amendments are still under the review, pending confirmation, and that the regulations would be available on the municipal webpage as soon as the final wording is developed.

VNT provides transit services – receipt, storage and handling of crude oil and petroleum products that come by pipelines, rail tank cars and tankers. VNT is a technologically advanced terminal and the largest crude oil and petroleum products transhipment company in the Baltic States with a total tank capacity of 1.2 million cubic meters. 51% of VNT is owned by JSC Ventspils nafta, which is one of the largest business groups in Latvia. JSC Ventspils nafta is the group’s parent company, which manages the investments in group companies, contributing to the total value and appreciation of each individual company.

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