Eurostat publishes such data and the ‘usual suspects’ score highly. The Netherlands handles about 33 tons per year per capita and Belgium about 20, compared with the EU average of 7.3. However, Norway has the highest ratio – over 40 ton per capita – due to substantial import and export flows of liquid and dry bulk. Naturally, some countries have volume/capita ratios much below the EU average.
This is the case in Albania. It has a ratio of 1.4, so more than four times lower than the EU average. This is surprising as the Albanian ports, mainly Durres, also serve Macedonia and Kosovo. So there would seem to be development potential that goes hand-in-hand with the gradual opening up of the economy.
Growth through improved international competitiveness and thus exports is required for Albania’s economy to catch up with its neighbouring economies and the role of the port is critical in this respect.
Albania’s maritime connectivity (expressed by UNCTAD in its Liner Shipping Connectivity Indicator, LSCI) is among the bottom three of Europe, together with Latvia and Montenegro. Previous studies have established a clear link between low connectivity and high trade costs, as well as between high trade costs and low volumes of trade. For instance, Albania is not directly connected with important trade partners such as Turkey and northern European countries.
Various improvements of Durres port – such as deeper draft, larger container berths, better rail connectivity and smoother customs procedures – are relevant, but in my view the overarching improvement potential lies with the port authority, similar to the situation in other ports.
Following a shift to a landlord model, the core role of Durres Port Authority is port development, that is investing in better port infrastructure, establishing good customer relations with port users (concessionaires, shipping lines, importers and exporters), active business development to attract new port users, and initiatives to enhance the quality of the overall port product (rail access, an ICT platform, administrative procedures). This requires a major transition of institutional structure, capabilities and organisation.
In many countries the pace of that transition process is slow, given the hurdles associated with all transitions, and is often lacking urgency. However, as much in Albania as in other countries, there is a motive for urgency; an underperforming port authority deeply hurts the economy.
First published by The Analyst in his Port Strategy column.