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REGIONAL REPORTTHE BALKANS


Holleman Bulgaria delivered oversize cargoes for the Aurubis Bulgaria industrial complex in Pirdop.


transport from Italy, only about 12 hours’ sailing away. The Balkans’ recent bloody history has


perhaps been a factor in discouraging the major multinational forwarders from setting up shop there. However, Roosen and his wife, originally from Belgium, have experienced nothing but kindness and encouragement from the locals in Croatia since setting up R&B Global Projects six years ago. This has created a market for the smaller


forwarders and indeed much of R&B’s business comes from the major operators unable or unwilling to step into the region. “[Multinational forwarders] still have a


fear of getting involved here; they do not have a great interest in setting up offices whereas we know our way around.”


Political factors Local political factors have also restricted the number of heavy haulage firms operating in the Balkans. This has limited choice somewhat and “we really could do with one or two more”, said Roosen. While some of the major European operators have considered the region, they have been daunted by the restrictions on cabotage operation and the bureaucracy involved in setting up local haulage firms. Lately, though, something has happened


to thoroughly stir things up – the Chinese have entered the market in numbers. Chinese interests have become involved in several major schemes, such as roads, railways and power stations, as well as a


80 May/June 2019


moribund copper mine in Serbia. Very often, the deals are in return for substantial amounts of natural gas. According to Roosen, there is also


Chinese interest in the port of Rijeka, while reports suggest that state-backed China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) could come to the rescue of the troubled Uljanik shipbuilding group. “They are simply trying to take control of


the market,” said Roosen. “They want to be everywhere.” He believes that the Chinese have a way


of cutting through red tape that the more cautious EU-based interests do not. Local people regard Chinese companies’


involvement with mixed feelings. On the one hand, they have succeeded in getting a number of stalled schemes up and running. But on the other, the direct benefit to the local economy is limited. Chinese firms tend to import their own equipment and labour, and even the temporary buildings to house them. And unlike China’s similar ventures in Africa, there is no statutory local content requirement in the Balkans.


Queues of trucks for Customs at the [EU-Serbia] border are typically 6-8 km long, and that is when a full complement of Customs clerks are at work.


– John Shirley Make no mistake, the Balkans can be a


tricky part of the world to deal with from a freight operations point of view, said a spokesperson for Dover-based UK forwarder John Shirley. The company has handled a number of outsize loads and project shipments over the years, including importing an old railway steam locomotive, truckloads of parts for a US Airforce plane refurbishment and many truckloads of materia l for a power station refurbishment in Kosovo.


Two-day border queues The Shirley spokesperson said: “I asked a Serbian truck driver the other day how long it took to get into the EU and how many days to get out again, and his reply was two days to get in and a day to get out.” Queues of trucks for Customs at the


border are typically 6-8 km long, and that is when a full complement of Customs clerks are at work. Bear in mind, also, that trucks going into Serbia and the other non-EU countries will also have to queue for final clearance at destination, so the delays can mount up alarmingly. Truckers caught up in queues will charge


demurrage and, if they end up missing the pick-up slot for a return load out of the country, may impose additional charges. More than in most parts of the world, it


is vital to check that all paperwork is in order, that goods descriptions are correct, invoices are in place and that import permits – where needed – are prepared, otherwise the delays can be even more severe.


HLPFI www.heavyliftpfi.com


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