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Annual consultations held

The Port Governance Agency held the seventh regular annual consultations with port operators, representatives of the Government of Serbia, public institutions and Serbian Chamber of Commerce’s Groups for ports and harbours and river shipping, as well as for gravel and grain. The meeting was also attended by representatives of the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, the Ministry of Interior, the Danube Commission, the Directorate for Inland Waterways, the Tourist Organization of Serbia, PWMC "Srbijavode", the Belt and Road Institute, the Faculty of Transportation, and others.

The director of the Agency, Vuk Perović, said that the response of the participants was a good indicator that the subjects in waterway transport recognized the conference as a forum where they could express their opinions and launch initiatives for the improvement of the waterway sector. He expressed satisfaction that, after three years, the conference is being held live again. According to him, the previous period was challenging and therefore the Agency tried to be an institution open to provide all kinds of professional assistance and strengthen cooperation.

Speaking about the results of the Agency, Perović informed participants about the work on the legal framework and added that two rulebooks came into force - on the criteria for recognizing discrimination among users of port services and minimum port tariffs. When it comes to freight traffic, he said that, according to the Agency's data, 15.95 million tons of cargo were transhipped on rivers in Serbia in 2021, which is by 3.2 percent less than in 2020. Last year's nautical season showed a slight improvement in international passenger traffic compared to 2020. On international passenger terminals in Serbia 508 port calls and more than 40,000 passengers who toured Serbia from cruise ships were recorded.

Perovic underlined that the previous year was marked by the start of new projects and investments in the field of freight and passenger traffic. "During the period behind us, we have invested in the development of international passenger terminals and marinas, as well as in projects in the environmental segment. We have signed the Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications in the field of nautical tourism, and in that way we will implement new infrastructure projects more efficiently. When it comes to international cooperation, we have further strengthened our position. Among other things, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Romanian national company APDM from Galati. We will work with them on improving of container transport, but also launch an initiative to make Belgrade a regional cruise centre. In addition, we have actively cooperated with the European Federation of Inland Ports, and at the upcoming session of the General Assembly, we will propose that in 2023 we host a meeting of EFIP members, "concluded Perović.

Representatives of the Group for Ports and Harbours and the Group for River Shipping agreed that the previous two years have brought many challenges in business. The year 2020 showed that waterway transport is a branch of transport that is reliable in times of crisis, bearing in mind that good results have been recorded. As they stated, constant communication between economic entities and relevant institutions greatly contributes to overcoming various challenges. In addition, they pointed out that the impact of the current global situation on the market of goods transport by water will be analysed in the coming period. They praised the cooperation with the Agency and its focus on resolving all open issues through joint work and support.

Dejan Trifunović from the Danube Commission said that the Agency carried out notable activities at the international level. He pointed out that in 2021, the Danube Commission formed the Expert Group for Ports and Port Activities, in whose work the Agency actively participates. He underlined that the goal of the group of experts is to help further development of Danube ports and their decarbonization. He announced that the commission will adopt the text of the Declaration on the decarbonisation and sustainability of river and seaports in the Danube region in the coming period. The Declaration is expected to be signed in the second half of this year. He stated that Serbia is the second country in the Danube basin in terms of transhipment volumes, after Romania. In addition, he pointed out that to better monitor the status of further improvement of port infrastructure, the Secretariat will update its existing database of Danube ports. Trifunovic said that the commission, through the work of the expert group, will continue to provide support for digitalization in ports, harmonization of tariffs and overcoming administrative barriers.

During the discussion, the participants concluded that the annual consultations are reflection of good cooperation between participants in water transport. Bearing in mind that the water sector faces great challenges, an open dialogue of all entities is a precondition for further improvement of freight and passenger transport by rivers.