Baltic ports ‘strategic’ for Belarus

  • 2010-09-01
  • From wire reports

VILNIUS - A tanker carrying a 550,000 barrel test batch of Venezuelan oil, destined for Belarus, arrived to the shores of Lithuania on the evening of Aug. 29, reports news agency LETA. The general director of the Lithuanian oil company Klaipedos Nafta, Rokas Masiulis, announced that “We are ready to receive the tanker with Venezuelan oil for Belarus.” Klaipedos Nafta earlier signed an agreement on deliveries of this test shipment, via the company Transchema.

“Our company has prepared all the documents and is ready to provide the reception, shipment and transfer of Venezuelan oil for Belarus by railway tankers – all arrangements are present for this,” said the director of Transchema, Vitaly Kalugin.
Klaipedos Nafta plans to continue negotiations about further deliveries of larger batches of Venezuelan oil, in which it is economically interested; the talk is about the transit through Klaipeda of approximately 2 million tons per year.

Looking at all its options, the Belarusian Council of Ministers adopted the Strategy for the Development of the Energy Potential of the Republic of Belarus for the period until the end of 2020, which says that experts have found it expedient to use the Ukrainian ports of Odessa and Yuzhne, the Latvian port of Ventspils and Estonia’s Tallinn as transshipment points for oil deliveries from Venezuela, Azerbaijan and Persian Gulf countries, reported BelaPAN. According to the strategy, Odessa’s sea-rail transshipment capacity is up to 240,000 tons a month. As for Yuzhne, the port is the final point of the Odessa-Brody pipeline that is currently used for transferring Russia’s Urals oil in the reverse direction, but can potentially be operated in the forward direction for the transportation of oil from Yuzhne to Belarus’ oil refinery in Mazyr.

The document also says that there is a potential possibility of delivering oil from Ventspils by both rail and pipeline, and that “it is strategically important to ensure the reverse use of the Polatsk-Ventspils pipeline.” For this purpose, it is necessary to build a pump station in the area of the terminal and “carry out additional modernization of supply lines.”
As for Klaipeda, the strategy reads that Lithuania “is interested in the organization of oil transportation via the port of Klaipeda, provided there are long-term guarantees that the port’s transshipment capacity is fully used in a period of five years.”

Riga Vice-mayor and Freeport of Riga Chairman Ainars Slesers (Latvia’s First Party/Latvia’s Way) jumped into the ring as well, telling a meeting of Latvian ambassadors in Riga last week that the Port of Riga could provide transit for ten million tons of the Venezuelan crude.

Belarus Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov had offered that Minsk was “seriously interested” in routing Venezuelan oil through Latvia in its bid to reduce reliance on Russia for the country’s oil supplies. Martynov’s comments, during a visit to Riga, were in reference to creating a “strategic transit” route by way of the Baltic States.

Belarus and Russia have frequent disagreements over oil supplies.