Transport Infrastructure - Lifeblood of the Economy


On 10th December 2013, Luka Koper, in collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia, organised a transport-logistics conference entitled The Future of Slovenian Logistics and its Contribution to Regional Development at the Chamber's Ljubljana premises. Prepared in the context of the ITS Adriatic Multi-port Gateway initiative as part of the EU’s TEN-T program, the Conference participants unanimously concluded that Slovenia’s transport and logistics sector enjoys significant potential, but this, together with the commensurate benefits that future realisation would bring to the development of the Slovenian economy as a whole, can only be achieved through investment in infrastructure. 
President of Luka Koper 's Management Board, Mr Gašpar Gašpar Mišič, emphasized the fact that despite its small size Slovenia enjoys, as a maritime nation, a key competitive advantage in relation to its landlocked neighbours, commenting that "It is time to make use of this advantage and seriously engage in the construction of infrastructure that will efficiently connect us with those markets which depend on daily supply via the Port of Koper." 
The Conference was also attended by two foreign guest speakers, Ms Virag Sandor of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) executive agency, and Mr Chris Rowland of UK-based freight strategy specialists MDS Transmodal. Ms Virag drew participant’s attention to the recently approved Connecting Europe Facility budget which shall finance investments in the pan-European transport, energy and digital communications networks across the 2014-2020 period. Of the 29.3 billion euros total, 23.2 billion euros is earmarked for the transport sector, i.e. funding European TEN-T infrastructure projects. Addressing the subject of the potential of Northern Adriatic ports, Mr Rowland presented the findings of an ITS Adriatic Multi-port Gateway project which revealed that the Northern Adriatic may enjoy some six million TEUs of container freight by 2030. Koper could be handling one-third of this total amount; however, the port's container terminal capacities have to be increased and the hinterland railway connection must be upgraded in order that it might realise any such potential. Mr Bojan Babič, State Secretary at Slovenia’s Ministry of Infrastructure and Spatial Planning, added that the development of the logistics sector and infrastructure in general is a priority not only in Slovenia but across Europe as a whole. 
Mr Miran Bordon of the Slovenian Maritime Administration spoke about the development of a Slovenian maritime single window system, whilst Mr Alojz Zupančič, Head of Slovenia’s Tax and Customs Policy Division, addressed the challenges of the modern European customs administration and, in conjunction with the establishment of the customs- and tax-friendly environment, strengthening the role of customs at the Port of Koper. 
This was followed by presentations as to the prospects for the development of hinterland transport infrastructure. Some interesting points were presented by Mr Daniel Tomljanovič, Luka Koper ‘s Operations and Sales Director, and Melita Rozman Dacar, Rail-freight Director at Slovenske Železnice, who also pointed to the need for efficient infrastructure in the development of Slovenian logistics. The perspective of Slovenian hauliers was provided by Mr Robert Sever from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia – Transport Association, while the views of freight-forwarders was presented by Mr Čedomir Bojanić of the Slovenian Association of Port Logistics Providers. 
Participants at the round table organised within the Conference included Matjaž Vrčko, from the foreign affairs service at Slovenia’s Ministry of Infrastructure and Spatial Planning, Professor Aleš Groznik from Ljubljana's Faculty of Economics, Dušan Mes, General Director of Slovenske Železnice, Samo Hribar Milič, President and General Director of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia, and Gašpar Gašpar Mišič, Management Board President of Luka Koper. They agreed that investments in transport infrastructure were essential in any development breakthrough in Slovenia. They also shared the opinion that this country needs a comprehensive infrastructure development plan encompassing a single integrated vision and timeline for realisation. According to Mr Vrčko, such a strategy shall be prepared in 2014, and Slovenia will accordingly take advantage of the funds provided by European projects. Conference participants also urged that it is essential for state plans and strategies in the field of transport policy, which advocate the immediate commencement of construction of a second Divača – Koper railway line, should not be altered upon future changes of government.