Serbia, Domestic shipping needs fleet renewal and personnel

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On the occasion of the announcement by the Minister of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, Goran Vesić, that the ministry will stand behind the Yugoslav river shipping company by helping JRB to buy a new icebreaker, as well as that they will jointly work on the procurement of 10 new barges, we checked what the plans are one of the oldest companies in the country and what are the perspectives of river transport in Serbia.

JRB Executive Director Mladen Grujić assessed in a written statement for Biznis.rs that since the outbreak of the pandemic, there have been huge changes and disruptions in supply and logistics in Europe and the world, which have also been reflected on the Danube market.

Answering our question about the key risks they face in business, Grujić indicated that the risks increased after the start of the war in Ukraine, and that the crisis gained new momentum in the economic and energy spheres, reflected in the instability of prices in general, especially in the jump in the prices of fuel and other energy sources.

“An additional problem is climate change, that is, frequent periods of drought, which affect the water levels of rivers and the normal course of navigation.” Yugoslav river shipping is adapting to new situations by choosing the most optimal transport models and supplying fuel and spare parts. At the same time, as a national carrier in river traffic, JRB responds as a priority to the needs of the economy in Serbia in terms of ensuring energy stability and the supply of raw materials for key economic systems,” Mladen Grujić told Biznis.rs.

The importance of delivering raw materials by river is also evidenced by the report of the Danube Commission on transport on that river, which in the section on Serbian ports offers the structure of cargo in 2021, when 30.9 percent of the total cargo was construction materials (gravel and sand), 10.4 percent of iron ore raw material, 13.3 percent was grain transportation, 13.4 percent oil and oil derivatives, and 15.2 percent coal.

It is also noticeable that the internal cargo transport increased in 2021 almost four times compared to the pandemic 2020 and 2019.

Grujić estimates that river traffic definitely has a perspective and room for significant growth.

“The network of waterways in Serbia consisting of three international rivers – the Danube, the Sava and the Tisa, with the DTD canal system – is an excellent basis for further development to which investment in port infrastructure and fleet should be added, which will undoubtedly provide all the conditions for river traffic make the most of it and show your strengths,” Grujić points out.

According to him, this is supported by the year-on-year increase in transshipment in domestic ports, as well as the announced infrastructure investments in ports and the fleet, which is also indicated by the data of the Danube Commission shown in the table that we have separated.

“The very fact that Serbia is connected to the North and Black seas via the Danube speaks volumes in favor of the adopted Water Transport Development Strategy, which we expect to be implemented in the coming years.” The role of JRB is recognized and we believe that we will continue with the trend of development in the years to come,” Grujić said.

When it comes to state support, he believes that the biggest support for JRB and all transport companies is investment in the economy and its strengthening, because in this way the need for transport capacities, their modernization and the construction of new means of transport increases.

“We are very grateful for the initiative to introduce dual education and create new personnel in river shipping,” Grujić concluded, and Branislav Vajda from the Branch Union of Shipmen and Seamen of Serbia also points out the importance of creating new personnel.

“Our river transport relies on the connection with the port of Constanţa on the Black Sea, and the waterway is the most convenient and environmentally friendly for the transport of large quantities of bulk cargo, so it is not surprising that the whole of Europe is currently working on the development of vessels and infrastructure,” said Vajda for Biznis.rs.

He reminds that, thanks to the Rhine-Main-Danube canal, today it is possible to enter a ship in Novi Sad and exit in Paris, or transport cargo to Amsterdam and further to the North Sea.

“Water transport practically has no flaws, except for one – we in Serbia have neglected our fleet and our people, so the vessels are extremely old, and not enough personnel are being trained, even though we have enough shipping schools,” warned Vajda and emphasized that in the future, a special emphasis must be placed on the safety of navigation, the simplification of the bureaucracy related to river transport and the work of inspections, as well as on the protection of rights from the labor relations of boatmen and seafarers, Biznis writes.

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