Zagreb built on misconceptions?

Industry Database

COMMENT: The new Zagreb Container Terminal, under development in Rijeka in Croatia, is currently experiencing a dispute over the award of construction works relating to allied rail facilities, including the new intermodal yard, writes Mike Mundy.

More concerning, however, is the issue of proven need for the project over the short to medium-term at least.

The quay construction is nearly complete and the process for the public procurement for road D403 is underway. But some serious misconceptions remain regarding the demand scenario for such a facility – to the point where the question has to be asked: was the project initiated without a comprehensive market study in place to analyse in-depth future demand and other critical related issues?

The European Commission website gives details of the project, describing it as a €350m project and states that “the container traffic of ... the Port of Rijeka was increased from 15,000 to over 200,000 containers in only a few years”.

This is simply not true. It took around 20 years for the Port of Rijeka to achieve a throughput of 200,000 teu (not containers) by 2017.

Similarly, the website says that “the number of containers handled in the Port of Rijeka will exceed 600,000 by 2025”, this information stated as drawn from “a new Master Plan for the port”.

This would effectively mean a trebling of the port’s existing container throughput in five to six years. History tells us that such a scenario is totally unrealistic. Furthermore, it doesn’t seem to acknowledge that the port, serving an extended cross-border hinterland, is hampered by inefficient rail capacity with the Rijeka–Zagreb line requiring extensive modernisation. Plans are on the drawing board, and some relatively small works have been undertaken, but there is absolutely no prospect of the line from Rijeka–Zagreb and beyond to key destinations such as Hungary being upgraded and ready to complement the start-up of the Zagreb Container Terminal scheduled for 2021, or the immediate years beyond this point.

There is also the not-insignificant issue of the existing Adriatic Gateway Container Terminal possessing ample spare capacity and the ability to be upgraded. So, the big question remains: where is the realistic economic rationale for a project which by comparison with others in the same category is a very expensive one?

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