RIGA - Management of Riga Free Port last week confirmed a plan for a radical overhaul of the port, including most notably a transfer of infrastructure away from the city's center and closer toward the mouth of the Daugava River.
The plan is crucial given the significance of the port both in terms of size - it occupies nearly one-fifth of city territory - and money - it is one of the city's largest taxpayers.
With the plan, port managers are hoping to solve several goals: freeing-up the city center from cargo traffic, cutting down time required for ships to reach their berths and building prime office and residential property in port-controlled areas closest to downtown Riga.
Port managers hope the plan, part of the city's own strategic development plan for the next 12 years, will be finalized by Jan. 1, 2005.
As managers explained, Riga's port is at a disadvantage in that ships have to navigate several kilometers further than in many European ports - e.g., Tallinn or Amsterdam - to reach their berths. To cut the distances, the port wants to relocate a large part of its infrastructure downstream closer to the river mouth. In particular, the plan calls for the railway cargo terminal to be moved from Andrejsala (just north of the passenger terminal) to Kundzinsala, a largely desolate island further down river.
The project would also require massive investment in improving infrastructure in areas such as Sarkandaugava, Mangalsala and Bolderaja. This would include building roads and a bridge over the Audupe tributary that flows into the Daugava.
Andrejsala, for its part, would be transformed into an office and residential complex, an idea that city officials have wanted to realize for some time.
The final decision on the project will depend upon the Riga City Council, which in the past has rejected the ports' plans to expand into areas such as Kundzinsala, where a few hundreds Rigans live and many more maintain small garden plots.