The Baltic Sea is a major shipping route and one of the busiest too. It accounts for 15% of the world’s maritime traffic. Mainly laden with dry bulk, about 2000 ships pass through its narrow straits at a given time, per Helsinki Commission.
It is getting busier due to a rise in oil transportation and the region’s increasing popularity as a cruise destination, leading to a higher prevalence of cruise vessels plying its waters.
Surrounded by Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Germany, Russia and Denmark, the Baltic Sea is important for these economies as its central position makes it a key link between the North Atlantic and the rest of Europe.
It supports port operations, logistics services, and related industries in the region while generating employment and handsome revenues for the countries bordering it.
It is well connected to numerous inland waterways, enhancing its position as a key shipping route. It is also linked to major European rivers like Rhine and Elbe. Additionally, it is a principal route for the transportation of energy resources, including oil, natural gas and coal.
Let us look at the ten major ports on the Baltic Sea.
Table of Contents
1. Port of Gdansk, Poland
Gdansk Port lies at the mouth of River Wisla, in the north of Poland on the southern Baltic Coast. Due to its sheer size and diverse terrain, it is divided into 2 areas; the Inner Port containing the Dead Vistula and the Port Channel and the Outer Port situated on waters of the Gdansk Bay.
The former handles general cargo and storage, while the latter has modern facilities, especially for containerised cargo and bulk, including crude oil, LPG, heating oils and fuels.
It has specialised equipment for handling grains, fertilisers, ore, lumber, steel, RORO and also a Free Zone. Gdansk Port is connected to most European ports, including Chinese and Asian ports like Shanghai, Port Klang of Malaysia etc.
More than 3500 ships, 17,781,000 tonnes of cargo, and 185,661 TEU passes through this facility annually.
2. Port of St. Petersburg, Russia
The Baltic seaport of St Petersburg, earlier known as Leningrad, is located on the islands of Neva Delta, at the head of the Neva Bay. A principal port in northwest Russia, St Petersburg has a water depth of 25 m at its deepest anchorages.
It has several terminals and around 200 berths with depths of 11.9 m for accommodating forest products, fish and other seafood, oil, containers, metals, coal, ores, chemical cargo, scrap metal etc.
The port also offers shipbuilding, ship repair and maintenance services. There is also a sea passenger terminal and piers at Kronstadt and Lomonosov, Gorskaya and Bronka facilities. They are linked via channels and fairways.
The port has a large container terminal and a RORO terminal as well. It is operational throughout the year with the help of icebreakers.
St Petersburg handles approximately 59,990,000 tonnes of cargo, with the major commodity handled being oil products, metals, and timber, followed by reefer cargo and grains.
3. Port of Riga, Latvia
The port of Riga is located on the Baltic Sea at the mouth of the Daugava River. It is an important manufacturing and commercial centre in Latvia, with a total berthage of 13,818 metres for accommodating all kinds of ships and cargoes, including coal carriers, container ships, timber carrying vessels, oil tankers, RORO and cruise ships.
The major exports comprise grains, foodstuff, cotton, metals, ores, coal and timber, while imports include fruits, sugar, machinery, chemicals and fish.
It remains operational throughout the year; however, icebreaker ships are required in winter.
The port handled 23.5 million tonnes of cargo in 2022, 2938 cargo ships and 99 cruise ships. It has 32 multifunctional terminals and is managed by over 4000 employees.
It has extensive storage facilities in the form of oil tanks, grain silos, open yards, cold storage, warehouses and timber basins.
4. Port of Klaipeda, Lithuania
Port of Klaipeda is located in the Sea Channel, linking the Curonian Lagoon to the Baltic Sea. It is the biggest port in Lithuania and the second biggest in the Baltic among other European Union Ports in terms of tonnage. It is also one of the few ice-free facilities in northern Europe.
It is a port of call for big cargo ships and also for cruise ships. Also, regular passenger ferry lines from Klaipeda go to Kiel, Copenhagen, Karlshamn and other European cities.
The port is equipped to handle raw materials, bulk liquids, containers, and general cargo and remains open throughout the year. It can handle large-sized ships and fully-loaded Panamax tankers too.
It imports frozen food, machinery, containerised cargo, and sugar and exports grains, metals, cement, peat, fertilisers, timber and oil products.
Approximately 8,340 vessels, 29,800,000 tonnes of cargo, 373,260 TEU and 280,300 passengers pass through this facility every year.
5. Port of Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn is located on the southern coast of the Finnish Gulf in the Baltic Sea. The port functions as an intermodal hub, dealing with passengers and cargo on a regular basis. An umbrella organisation, the Port of Tallinn, owns 2 passenger harbours called the Old city harbour and Saaaremaa Harbour. The two cargo harbours are the Muuga Harbour and the Paldiski South Harbour.
The Port of Tallinn is one of the most expansive port complexes on the coast of the Baltic Sea.
Vanasadam, or the Old City Harbour, serves as the main commercial facility. It is the most easterly harbour in the southern part of the bay, having four basins and a pier with berths for tankers, containers, RORO and passenger ships.
It has 25 berths, including 4 passenger terminals, with a total quayage of 4074 m and depths of around 11 m.
The main commodities handled here include grain, oil, coal, gravel, wood pellets, containers, automobiles, general cargo, metal etc.
Approx 6,700 vessels, 33,200,000 tonnes of cargo, including 140,000 TEU and 7,300,000 passengers, are handled annually.
6. Port of Rostock, Germany
The Rostock Port lies in the west of the Baltic Sea at the mouth of Warnow River, 80 km east of Lubeck. Rostock is the economic hub of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
Rostock is the 4th biggest German Port and the biggest on the German Baltic coast. The ferry services between Rostock to Gedser, Denmark and to Trelleborg, Southern Sweden, are one of the busiest ones between Germany and Scandinavia.
The principal port of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, this facility comprises the Seehafen Rostock, Oil Harbour, the fishery port, the old city port, and the cruise liner terminal, also called the Warnemunde Passenger Quays. The port has a chemical harbour as well.
Approximately 8,900 vessels, 23,700,000 tonnes of cargo and 2,010,000 passengers are handled annually. The port can accommodate ships with a maximum LOA of 295 m, a 45 m beam and a 13 m draught.
7. Port of Kaliningrad, Russia
Kaliningrad, known as Konigsberg until 1946, is the biggest city and the centre of administration for the Kaliningrad Oblast. It is 412 miles west of the Russian mainland and lies on River Pregolya, at the head of lagoon Vistula on the Baltic Sea.
It is a major hub of transport and has several sea and river ports. It is also the headquarters of the Russian Navy’s Baltic Fleet and one of the biggest industrial centres in Russia.
The Port of Kaliningrad is located on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, at the mouth of River Pregel. It is linked to the open waters by the 22 nautical miles-long Morskoy Canal.
The port complex consists of three basins, namely the Volnaya Harbour, Industrialnaya Harbour and Lesnaya Harbour.
It remains operational all year round with the help of icebreakers. It exports timber, rolled metal, scrap metal coal, grain, oil, fertiliser, coke and pulp. Main imports include fish products, containerised cargo, foodstuff etc.
Approximately 3,300 vessels and 15,380,000 tonnes of cargo are handled annually.
8. Port of Kiel, Germany
Kiel lies at the Baltic Sea entrance of the Kiel Canal. The natural harbour is ice-free and specialises in RORO and cruise traffic. It also has docks dedicated to shipbuilding and repairs. It comprises the ports of Schwedenkai, Sartorikai, Ostseekai and Norwegenkai, the Ostuferhafen, and the canal ports of Nordhafen and Nordmole.
Schwedenkai has daily ferry connections to Gothenburg and has access to the markets of Scandinavia.
Norwegenkai is one of the best passenger terminals on the German coast, It is from here that Color Line leaves for Oslo daily, constituting the only direct ferry connection from Germany to Norway.
Ostseekai is home to modern cruise terminals welcoming 800,000 people every year in their comfortable terraces and lounges with a stunning view of Kiel Fjord.
Ostuferhafen serves as the freight and logistics centre and is the largest part of Kiel port, where ferry lines to the Baltic regions, western Sweden and Russia are situated. It has 6 berths and LOLO and RORO facilities.
Nordhafen is a commercial zone directly linked to the national highway and rail network. It welcomes barges and ships. Lastly, Nordmole handles bulk carriers carrying construction material.
Around 4,000 vessels, 4,860,000 tonnes of cargo, 20,000 TEU and 1,850,000 passengers are handled at Kiel every year.
9. Port of Gydnia, Poland
Gydnia Port is located on the western bank of Gdansk Bay in the northern part of Poland. It is a large and modern facility on the Baltic Sea that is free from ice and tides since it is sheltered by 2.5 km long breakwaters and has excellent rail and road connections.
It handles general cargo, dry and liquid bulk like grains, coal and vehicles. It is also the biggest container port in Poland. The port has historically functioned as a feeder port linking Poland with Bremerhaven, Hamburg and Rotterdam. It was also a loading point for Polish exports destined for Britain.
Gdynia port covers 973.0 ha with a quay length of 11.2 km. The entrance to the port is 150 m wide and has a depth of 14 m.
Around 3,240 vessels, 15,500,000 tonnes of cargo, 610,000 TEU and 460,000 passengers are handled annually here.
10. Port of Hanko, Finland
Readily accessible from the open Baltic Sea waters, the Hanko Port at the southernmost point of Finland is a leading terminal in fast-liner traffic, providing round-the-clock services for all types of international maritime trade.
It has three harbours handling different types of cargo. The Western Harbour, with 5 berths, deals with project cargo, steel products, RORO, and forest exports.
The Outer Harbour also has 5 berths that accommodate vehicles, steel and heavy lifts. Koverhar Harbour, with its 2 berths, handles bulk cargo.
Major exports include plywood, paper, wood pulp, butter, and cellulose, while imports comprise cotton, coal, iron and gypsum.
Approximately 1,600 vessels, 3,500,000 tonnes of cargo and 170,900 passengers are handled annually.
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Zahra is an alumna of Miranda House, University of Delhi. She is an avid writer, possessing immaculate research and editing skills. Author of several academic papers, she has also worked as a freelance writer, producing many technical, creative and marketing pieces. A true aesthete at heart, she loves books a little more than anything else.