"I think that such decisions are difficult to understand, because the companies shipped Belarusian products, 2.5 million tons annually. Both Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways) and Klaipėdos Nafta earned money from that. Now the decision is to refuse handling products of this company (Transchema) and rent out the tanks to another company (Litasco)," Transport Minister Eligijus Masiulis told BNS.
"Possibly, the tanks will be kept as storage space. While it may make no major financial difference to Klaipėdos Nafta, Lietuvos Geležinkeliai would lose a significant part of Belarusian freight," he said.
Litasco currently ships products via the Latvian port of Ventspils, which means that the Klaipėda terminal's tanks could be filled with oil products from the sea for storage. Those products would then be shipped out by sea, thus leaving the railway company without orders, the transport minister said.
However, Energy Minister Arvydas Sekmokas told BNS that Klaipėdos Nafta's decision to sign a contract with Litasco was due to a better economic proposal.
"As far as I have been informed by Klaipėdos Nafta, the company held talks both with the Belarusian company (Transchema) and the Russian company. Klaipėdos Nafta chose a more favorable option in terms of price and contract performance guarantees. As far as I have been informed by the company, this is a simple economic decision," he said.
The energy minister thinks that oil products under the contract will be transported by railway to the port of Klaipėda.
Lietuvos Geležinkeliai said on Monday that Klaipėdos Nafta would stop handling Belarusian crude refineries' products starting on 1 October. The state railway operator said that Belarus' refineries, dissatisfied with the new intermediary, had told it that they would export their products via Latvian ports.
Under the contract signed between Klaipėdos Nafta and Swiss-registered Litasco in late August, the latter company is to ship around 2 million tons per year, accounting for around 25 percent of the terminal's total annual capacity. The contract is effective until October 2014.
Klaipėdos Nafta plans to reload a total of 8 million tons of oil products this year.