Historically, Latvia has been one of the main transit points for both north-south and east-west trade flows. Its geographical location remains central to strategically relevant transportation flows connecting major world economies like the USA, European Union, Russia, the CIS, and the Far East. The transit sector is one of the strongest industrial sectors in Latvia. Nearly 90 % of turnover in Latvian ports, more than 80 % of rail cargo, and the major proportion of oil and oil products transported by tanker wagons is transit. More than 8 % of Latvia's employees are engaged in the transportation and servicing of transit cargo. The importance of the transport, transit, and storage sector in terms of GDP contribution is 7.3 % in 2020.

Latvia has three major ports - Ventspils, Riga, and Liepaja and several minor harbors such as Skulte, Mērsrags, Salacgrīva, Pāvilosta, Roja, Jūrmala, and Engure. Liepaja and Ventspils are ice-free ports.

Total Volumes of Cargo Transportation

Railways link Latvia with Russia, CIS, the neighboring Baltic States, and through Poland with the rest of Europe. Latvia possesses a dense railroad network connecting the country to destinations as far as the Russian Far East, wherever the former Soviet railway gauge standard (1520mm) is in operation. There are additional opportunities for trade connections with Japan and Southeast Asia. Currently, state-owned operator Latvian Railways functions mostly as a transit trunk-line with as much as 80 % of total freight volumes being transit connected to Latvian ports and about 30 % of freight rolling-stock being tanker wagons. Movement in the opposite direction, to Moscow and other parts of Russia and CIS countries, is dominated by container cargo. There is enough capacity to substantially increase the cargo currently transported by rail. At present, the east-west railway corridor has the capacity to transport 50 million tonnes of cargo annually, and reconstruction plans to substantially increase this figure have been approved. To improve the rail connection between Central and Northern Europe and Germany, the Rail Baltica project has been launched providing a railway connection between Tallinn and Warsaw of at least 950 km (728 km in the Baltics, of them 235 km in Latvia) with a maximal speed of 240 km/h.

Latvia has three major ports - Ventspils, Riga, and Liepaja and several minor harbors such as Skulte, Mērsrags, Salacgrīva, Pāvilosta, Roja, Jūrmala, and Engure. Liepaja and Ventspils are ice-free ports.

The three major ports have been accorded favorable incentive schemes to help attract new business (80-100 % relief on direct taxes and significant discounts on indirect taxes (VAT, Excise)). Ventspils and Riga Ports are Free Ports whereas the port of Liepaja comprises a Special Economic Zone.

The Latvian road network is well-developed but further development is still in progress. The Via Baltica is the most important transport corridor, traversing Latvia in a north-south direction. Via Baltica is also a European transport corridor - route E67. It connects European cities Helsinki, Tallinn, Riga, Kaunas, and Warsaw. The road network is uniform throughout Latvia. There is almost no traffic congestion. Furthermore, there are no tolls, fees, or taxes for using roads, bridges, or tunnels.

Air Baltic is the largest international aviation company in the Baltic states and Riga International Airport is the main air traffic center in this region offering regular passenger, cargo, and postal delivery to the cities of Europe and the world. The RIGA International Airport renders both aviation (airplane, passenger, and cargo attendance) and non-aviation services (lease, parking spaces, VIP center services, etc.). It attends both national and international airlines becoming one of the few European airports that attends both full service and low costs airlines. From the RIGA International Airport, it is possible to go to more than 70 destinations in winter and more than 100 destinations in the summer season.

In 2020 Riga International Airport welcomed 2 million passengers and handled 23 219 tonnes of cargo. Riga International Airport is the leader in the Baltic States – the market share of Riga International Airport was 44 percent.

Transit and Logistics Sector Advantages

  • Latvia's geographical location between east and west, forming the EU's external border with Russia and Belarus, particularly significant for the Russian market, but also important because of the potential transit function of Far East cargo via the Trans-Siberian Railway connection to western Europe. The strategic location of the capital Riga, including its own consumer market potential, offers opportunities for development within the Baltic States and is the reason that numerous international companies have located their Baltic States' head offices there.
  • The quality and level of transport and logistics services is improving, led by large, international transport and forwarding companies, which have the ability and expertise to organise value-adding activities.
  • Road, rail, and maritime infrastructure – the transport connections for maritime cargo flows in containers.
  • Availability of skilled labour. Many employees have knowledge of several foreign languages (mostly English, Russian, German).
  • Availability of high level IT in the transport industry, with use of modern IT/data systems, Internet connections, and the development of Electronic Data Interchange. The development of technology is being stimulated by the large, international transport and forwarding companies.

Additional information

Database of Latvian exporters
Ministry of Transport of Latvia: www.sam.gov.lv
Latvian Association of Freight Forwarders and Logistics: www.laff.lv 
Riga International Airport: www.riga-airport.com