Veljko Kovačević PhD. Assistant Minister of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure for Inland Water Transport

Serbia Will Have The Region’s Most Modern Ports

Once the most neglected branch of transport, water transport is today an integral part of the new investment cycle for infrastructure. Investing in the development of ports and river infrastructure will enable Serbia to fully utilise its strategic position in the region and the Danube's potential as a European transport corridor

Veljko Kovačević Ph.d. Assistant Minister of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure for Inland Water Transport

Until the end of the 1980s, Serbia was Europe’s leaders in river transport. Around 20 million tonnes of goods were transported annually via the Danube and nearly five million tonnes via the Sava, while Serbian ports handled nearly 12 million tonnes of cargo reloading annually. After this period the wars of the ‘90s, sanctions and international isolation have followed, while the period between 2000 and 2010 has been marked by privatisation with catastrophic consequences for the overall development of inland water transport.

After almost 25 years, the neglect and decline of this mode were halted, with investments again being made in this mode of transport. In order to ensure this process was irreversible, it was necessary for it to be defined and guided in a systematic and organised manner. In line with this approach, we first adopted the Strategy for the Development of Water Transport of the Republic of Serbia 2015-2025, which provided the basis for us to define the Action Plan for the implementation of the most important strategic goals during 2016. Under the scope of the Action Plan, we defined a list of the most important projects and after that, a work on the preparation of technical documentation and the securing of funds for their implementation has been initiated.

A proof of the extent to which the approach to this mode of transport has changed is the fact that the total value of planned and implemented projects in water transport in the 2000 to 2014 period amounted to €18.5 million, while the value of projects that have been launched or are planned for implementation in the period from 2014 to 2025 totals 202.5 million euros.

In addition to approving grants from the EU’s IPA and CEF funds, there has also been the ratification of the Financial Agreement for the Development of River Transport Infrastructure with the European Investment Bank, worth a total of 100 million euros, which will be used in combination with other sources of financing.


After three years of programming and contracting, during 2017 we started implementing two important projects aimed at improving navigation conditions in the Serbian section of the Rhine-Danube Corridor. Work began in 2018 on the project “River training and dredging works on the Danube”, while by the beginning of April 2019 we will fully realise the project “Development of Navigation Monitoring System on the inland waterways (AtoN)”. These two projects have a total value of 18 million euros and are financed from the IPA 2013 programme.

One of the most important projects we’ve launched is “Upgrade of the Iron Gate 1 Navigational Lock”, which has a value of 28.5 million euros. This project is of huge importance because the unhindered functioning of water transport on the Danube in Europe is dependent on the functioning of these locks. Tenders have been conducted for the selection of works contractors and supervision, so we expect to close the locks in September in order to launch works, with a December 2020 deadline for completion of works.

Moreover, by 2022 we will also implement the project “Removal of the sunken German World War II fleet” located near Prahovo. The estimated value of this project is 23 million euros and should also ensure the extending of the fairway at this section to the prescribed width of 180 metres from the currently narrowed 100 metres.

The total value of projects in water transport in the 2000 to 2014 period amounted to €18.5 million, while in the period from 2014 to 2025 it will total 202.5 million euros

During the project “River training and dredging works on the Sava”, works were conducted during 2017 on the critical sector “Kamičak”, while in 2018 the same was done at the critical sector “Šabac” and in 2019 we are planning to complete works at this sector. Remaining after this will be works carried out on three more critical sectors of the Sava, in “Sremska Mitrovica”, “Klenak” and the “Drina and Sava Confluence”. The value of works on all critical sectors of the Sava totals nine million euros.


Following several decades of the state’s absence from the port sector, due to the lack of an adequate legal framework that resulted in the implementation of completely inappropriate privatisations until 2012, the Republic of Serbia plans to invest more than 170 million euros in the construction of port infrastructure over the next four years. Here we are primarily referring to the construction of port infrastructure for the Bulk and General Cargo Terminal of the Port of Smederevo, worth a total of 43 million euros, then around 90 million euros for the construction of port infrastructure at the new Port of Belgrade, as well as the expansion of the capacities of ports in Sremska Mitrovica and Bogojevo, but also new investment at the Port of Novi Sad. The positive geographical position and developed hinterland of the Port of Smederevo is still inadequately utilised for the economic development of this region of Serbia.

As such, investments in this port encompass the construction of a terminal to enable the transhipment of around five million tonnes of various types of goods. Furthermore, the construction of a new port in Belgrade will create the first large multimodal hub in the Western Balkans. The port will be designed to include a container terminal, a terminal for the loading and unloading of cars and haulage vehicles (ro-ro) and an oil terminal (including a smaller LNG terminal), as well as bulk and general cargo terminal, while it is also planned to construct an industrial park in the hinterland of the Port of Belgrade.

Alongside these two major projects, the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure also plans to expand the capacity of the Port of Bogojevo on the Danube, which should result in the construction of new port capacities for the handling of agricultural products. Likewise, in conjunction with the World Bank, we are planning to secure loans through the Integrated Development Programme for the Drina-Sava Corridor, in the amount of 20 million euros, in order to expand the capacity of the Port of Sremska Mitrovica with the construction of an oil and bulk cargo terminal, as well as expansion of the container terminal.

Finally, following the transferral of portland and port infrastructure under the property assets of the Republic of Serbia, the process of privatising the port operator of the Port of Novi Sad is now underway. Through this privatisation process, the Republic of Serbia will earn about eight million euros from the basic sale of property included in the privatisation (cranes, warehouses and administrative buildings), while the new port operator will be obliged to invest in the development of the port’s infrastructure and suprastructure in an amount exceeding 15 million euros, while we estimate that the new operator’s investments will be double this specified amount. As a result of measures already taken, over the last three years the Republic of Serbia has recorded constant growth in the volume of goods transported along the Danube, Sava and Tisa rivers. From a total of 5.6 million tonnes of goods in 2014, more than 10 million tonnes of goods were transported along inland waterways of the Republic of Serbia in 2016, while in 2018 we recorded nearly 11 million tonnes. As a result of planned investments, we expect the volume of goods handling at Serbian ports to increase from the current level of 7.5 million tonnes to more than 14 million tonnes by 2023.