Challenges for the transportation of cargo and the potential for cruise tourism were discussed by international experts and stakeholders from the Bulgarian institutions during an event organized by the Bulgarian-Romanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Nearly 50 people joined the reception organized by the Bulgarian-Romanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which was entitled “A view of the river: Danube as an Ecological Alternative for Efficient European Transport”. The event which took place on November 14th in Sofia gathered representatives of all stakeholders on a national level as well as a group of international experts. The guests included representatives of the diplomatic corps, of the legislative, executive and local authorities, the Ministries of transportation of Romania, Slovakia and Croatia, representatives of the Danube Commission, national, branch and bilateral chambers of commerce.

Nearly 40 million tonnes of cargo was transported on the Danube and its tributaries in 2016. Out of these, 20 million tonnes were processed by Romanian ports, while their Bulgarian counterparts processed only 6 million tonnes. The significant difference is due to a number of factors, probably the most important one of which is the difference between both countries’ approach towards integrating inland water transportation in their national transportation strategies. Romania has been consistently and systematically working for increasing the freight turnover in their river and sea ports, including by integrating the topic of connectivity in their priorities for the Presidency of the Council of the EU.

“Bad infrastructure, maintenance of the waterway and facilities and administrative barriers are some of the main challenges on the Danube”, stated Mr. Serban Cucu, Secretary General of the Romanian Association of ship owners and port operators. He added that there are also purely geographical specifications of the river in its Bulgarian-Romanian section, which make her unpassable during some periods of the year due to low waters. With better planning and investments for the year-round maintenance of the waterway, however, he believes these challenges can be overcome. According to Mr. Cucu in order to achieve year-round passage on the river, investments comparable to those needed for the building of 2 kilometers of highway are needed.

Besides challenges for freight operators the Danube also carriers a huge potential for economic growth for Bulgaria thanks to the cruise tourism on the river. According to Alexander Kamenov, a captain with 20 years of river experience, only 10% of passenger ships sail to routes on the Lower Danube. A very small portion of the affluent passengers from Western Europe, USA and third markets make return visits to the Bulgarian-Romanian section of the river. In order to increase the tourist interest investments for supporting infrastructure like ship stands, panoramic road along the river and land tourist routes are needed.

In her closing remarks BRCCI Executive Director, Eleonora Ivanova, stated the Chamber’s intention to continue its work on overcoming the river’s challenges and its readiness to participate in international and local cooperation groups.

About Author: brcci