(L. to r.) Enrico Maglia, Josep Lloveras, Christos Gofas, Roberto Zanetti (IWMP project leader), Velimir Ilić, Ivana Tomić (assistant minister), at the presentation of the Master Plan. Photo: Beta News Agency

A Future for Serbia’s Waterway Transport

Serbia is a country full of inland waterways – 588 km of the Danube, and 207 and 164 km of its tributaries the Sava and Tisa respectively. Add the 600 km Danube-Tisa-Danube canal system, and there’s a grand total of about 1,600 km of navigable waterway p

otentially available for transport.

“Potentially” – because, as an EU-funded study has just revealed, years of neglect and under-development related to the political events of the 1990s in the region, have led to a decrease of over 40 per cent in the use of the waterway system since 1990. Navigation and port usage on the Danube also dropped dramatically in 1999, after NATO action left bridges destroyed and unexploded bombs and shells in the river.

The study – the Serbian Inland Waterways Transport Network Master Plan, and its associated feasibility studies – was launched in 2003. The final version was presented in Belgrade on 27 June 2006, and portrays the present situation and capacity of waterway transport in Serbia. The study involved:

  • a detailed analysis of the transport and cargo situation, including inter-modality (when transporting a single cargo involves both river and road or rail transport);
  • the assessment of works required to improve, rehabilitate and develop the Inland Waterway Transport network and the inland ports;
  • execution of an Environmental Impact Assessment for the proposed works;
  • an analysis of the institutional and legal aspects related to the organisation, administration and further development of the IWT sector;
  • the development of a Communication and Information System in the IWT network and execution of detailed field surveys and investigations of the IWT network;
  • a cost-benefit analysis of the proposed works, assessment of priority works and implementation schedule based on a selection of developed transport strategies and selected economic scenarios.

The project has identified and prioritised the complex engineering works needed for restoring unhindered navigation - removing obstacles and improving the navigability of the waterway network. These include: the raising of sunken ships and removal of unexploded ordnance, river “training” and dredging, and repair and reconstruction of locks. Investment in port infrastructure has also been examined in detail. In total, the study has found that over €500 million in investment is needed to bring the waterway network and ports up to standard.

Welcoming the presentation of the plan, the Serbian Minister of Capital Investment, Velimir Ilic, stated that it was a good plan for the development of river transport in Serbia, and indeed for the development of the IWT sector in Europe as a whole. In his view, finance for implementing the plan “would not be a problem”, as he expected international financial institutions and others to become involved.

As Josep Lloveras, Head of the Delegation of the European Commission to Serbia and Montenegro, pointed out: “The need for a master plan for inland navigation in Serbia is specially mentioned in the European Partnership document issued last year. Today’s Plan, with its engineering solutions, and the European Agency’s socio-economic development study of the Danube (expected to be published early next year), are both part of the response. Once adopted and implemented, they will help to put Serbia firmly back on the inland waterway transport map of Europe.”

Entrance to Serbia's biggest river port - Belgrade Agency representatives Christos Gofas (Head of Operations, Belgrade office) and Enrico Maglia (Infrastructure Programme Manager) set the project in the context of other Agency infrastructure activities. Mr Gofas stated that “the Plan and its associated Feasibility Studies are the result of a long and painstaking process of researching and collecting information on many aspects of the Serbian river system. It is no secret that there is a huge amount of work to do to bring the system up to the required standard: the Plan shows the way ahead for this.”

Mr Maglia referred to future Agency involvement for improvement projects associated with the waterways and their related infrastructure – including the raising of the wrecks of the German river fleet, sunk near Prahovo during World War II, the design for the rebuilding of the Žeželj road-rail bridge across the Danube at Novi Sad (destroyed in 1999), and supervision of reconstruction of the “Gazelle” motorway bridge across the Sava river in Belgrade, on the main north-south E-75 highway route.

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