A regular operation of the ferryboat across the Danube between Svishtov / Bulgaria / and Zimnicea / Romania began.

Modernization of Bulgaria Svishtov Port Continues

INTERVIEW – Freight Flow at Bulgaria\\\'s Svishtov Port Dwindles as Global Crisis Bites





Bulgaria), May 15 (SeeNews)

“Loading and discharging activities sharply fell this year as the global economic downturn entered Bulgaria. This is the main problem before the port at this point, as freight flow dropped by some 60% between the beginning of the year and the end of April,” International Port Svishtov CEO Rumen Jordanov told SeeNews in a recent interview.

“We expect low revenue this year and that’s why we are working on minimizing costs in order to be able to weather the crisis,” he added.

Imports of metals and coal coming mainly from Ukraine, and shipments of construction materials originating in Western Europe make the bulk of the port's turnover.

Bulgaria’s Transport Ministry awarded a 31-year concession on the port to local company Dredging Fleet Istar in April 2007. Since then, the concessionaire has invested over 4.6 million levs ($3.2 million/2.4 million euro) in renovating the port's open storage area and expanding and mechanizing the closed one.

“We plan to make some investment this year as well, albeit on a smaller scale, in completing infrastructure works," Jordanov said.

In 2008 the port operator focused on attracting forwarders willing to use the port's container terminal.

“We targeted local and regional companies, both importers and exporters,” Jordanov said. “We expect in 2010 the first deals in partnership with big international forwarding companies, which have a big share in container imports from China and Thailand.”

International container traffic is reaching Svishtov mainly from the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta.

company and we expect it to be launched very soon. But with the crisis worsening every freight volume forecast may be wrong. Every deal is put on hold and the impact of the crisis in this segment is severe," said Jordanov.

Benefiting from its location on the Danube River, the Svishtov port was a Bulgarian gateway for Western goods, culture, fashion and cuisine in the 19th century and one of the country’s best developed commercial centres at the time.

Located in northern Bulgaria, the Svishtov port offers the shortest way by road from the Danube to industrial and agricultural centres like Plovdiv, Stara Zagora, Veliko Tarnovo and Pleven. It lies some 200 kilometres away from the Bulgarian capital Sofia.

“We use flexible logistics schemes, combining railway and road transport,” Jordanov said. The company's main domestic competitor is the port of Ruse, Bulgaria’s largest Danube port located some 100 kilometres east of Svishtov.

It has taken the port some time to become known locally as a competitive container traffic route as forwarders are used to the established routes - from Constanta to Bulgaria’s Varna and Burgas ports on the Black Sea coast, and the one from Greece’s Aegean port of Thessaloniki to Sofia, Jordanov said.

Besides container services, the company is developing its passenger cruise offers. It plans to launch a ferry line to the Romanian port of Zimnicea lying on the opposite bank of the Danube.

“The company does not expect passenger numbers at the port of Svishtov to fall this year. They will remain at some 25,000,” Jordanov said. “We hope these numbers will increase with the opening of the ferry line next year.”

The ferry line is expected to not only help the port operator expand its business but add value to the town of Svishtov as a tourist destination. Currently, river cruise ships carrying tourists mainly from Western Europe berth in Svishtov and tourists travel by bus for a sightseeing tour of medieval Bulgarian capital of Veliko Tarnovo before the bus takes them back to the ship in the port of Ruse.

“The option we would like to work on is to advertise landmark sights of Svishtov so that passengers spend more time here. This idea was presented to tour operators but we still need to work a lot to realise it,” Jordanov said.

“We also want the ferry line to come to being as people of the 21st century want to travel by their cars and coming here they will be able to visit more places and stay longer in the town,” Jordanov said. A passenger shuttle boat links Svishtov and Zimnicea twice a day, while on Saturdays the port offers a boat trip to the nearby Persina and Vardim islands, the largest in this section of the Danube.

(1 euro = 1.95583 Bulgarian levs)

INTERVIEW – Freight Flow at Bulgaria\\\'s Svishtov Port Dwindles as Global Crisis Bites