With expansion of the European Union, center of economic activities has considerably shifted to the East. For Western Europe, the main harbours are Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Hamburg. However in todayâ€™s situation of European enlargement, ships from far East and South Asia and the Middle East (e.g. China, India, Japan, ASEAN Countries and Middle Eastern Countries) find harbours for Central and South Eastern European Union markets in Adriatic Sea and Ionian Sea (e.g. Trieste and Thessaloniki). Considerable strategic importance is given to the Adriatic Sea harbours for goods that come from India which has European Union as its largest trading partner. These issues are constantly being presented at the Meetings of Chamber of Commerce between India and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). According to the analysis of FICCI, the distance for sea transport corridors for the majority of the goods coming from the East and South Asia and going to Eastern and Central European Union has been reduced by approximately 5,000 km. This is considered an enormous savings in terms of transportation costs, taking into the account the high price of oil and reduction in time for transport.
More precise indicators show that the sea corridors from Harbour Said which is located at the Northern exit of the Suez Canal in the Mediterranean to the harbour in Hamburg, Germany is approximately 6,391 km or approximately 3,450 nautical miles (1 Nautical mile = 1.852 km). However, the distance between Harbour Said to Harbour Neum/Ploce is approximately 1,980 km or 1,069 nautical miles. This means that the difference of this new route is 4,411 km or 2,380 nautical miles to Harbour Neum, a considerably shorter distance.
In other words, the distance of sea transportation for goods which are coming from the East and South Asia and the Middle East for Central and South Eastern European Union through the Adriatic Sea and to the Harbours of Neum and Ploce is reduced by approximately 5,000 km in comparison with harbours of the Western Europe. It is obvious that currently the countries of the Adriatic Sea are not realizing what economic outbreak they can expect in terms of sea transport, road transport, rail transport and tourism, i.e. all activities that are related to economic growth.
The Italian Government is rapidly expanding harbour capacities of Bari and Brindisi and the Albanian Government is doing the same in Dures and Vlore. Corridor C VIII and Italyâ€™s Southern harbours will connect Italy with Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and Turkey. Railway and highway transport will be integrated with ship transport allowing large trucks and complete railway compositions to be embarked directly onto vessels, and by doing so, obtaining savings in time and cost (Information provided at the Ninth Summit of Central European Initiative (CIE) of Economic Form which took place from 22-23 November, 2006 in Tirana, Albania).
Therefore, the primary strategic interests of Bosnia and Herzegovina, besides the use of Harbour Ploce, is to build its own commercial Harbour Neum. This new commercial Harbour Neum would need to be connected together with highways in case corridor C V will not reach Neum, and it will also need to be connected by railway which would come from Capljina.
In the framework of strategic interests for Bosnia and Herzegovina and in order to have free access to the open sea, there would need to be a legal way of preventing the Republic of Croatia in building a proposed bridge in front of Harbour Neum. The present proposal which is being discussed by lawyers for Bosnia and Herzegovina in consultation and support by international lawyers would need to clarify what the concept of â€œfree access to the open seaâ€ means. In other words, what are the rights of Bosnia and Herzegovina as it is a country that has sea boundaries. In the case of a positive legal decision for Bosnia and Herzegovina, there would be no possibility for Croatia to build a proposed bridge.
As the possibility for connecting territories, Croatia may look at a possibility of building a tunnel under the sea bed such as the tunnel that was built, connecting the United Kingdom and France, beneath the English Channel at the Strait of Dover called Channel Tunnel (French: le tunnel sous la Manche) or the tunnel that was built beneath the sea of Oresund Strait connecting Sweden and Denmark.
Bridge between Croatian and Peljesac cuting through Bosnian territory
However, if according to international law, Croatia has the right to connect its territory by building a bridge, then the height above sea level needs to be at least 65 meters and width between supporting pillars according to international law and standards for commercial shipping vessels. The depth of the sea in the Neum Straights is between 20 to 27 meters which is ideal depth for a commercial harbour. In continuation, there are examples of bridges which are 65 meters or more and the tunnel that connects Denmark and Sweden.
Location BiH and Neum on the map
One has to take into account a possibility of huge cruise ships/hotels (nine floors high) to come into Neum Harbour. Last year in the United States, one such cruise was made with a height of 72 m. This means that when US tourists visit Bosnia and Herzegovina with such cruises, they would not be able to reach Neum Harbour with a bridge that is 65 m high. Furthermore, huge military ships may not be able to come into Harbour Neum. Two years ago, on a friendly mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, came a French ship which had a mass of 61 m. These issues are becoming more important for Bosnia and Herzegovina, as the country is in the process of obtaining a full membership in NATO, and large military ships may need to dock in Bosniaâ€™s territorial waters.
Though, the proposed construction of Croatiaâ€™s Peljesac Bridge may create a great contribution to the transportation system for Croatia, it may also cause devastating effects to the sea shipping industry for Bosnia and Herzegovina which may decide in the future to build its own commercial port in Neum. Therefore, one needs to take into account the construction process of a commercial harbour in Neum. One of the major issues of creating a fully functioning seaport is to have a highly operational container crane which can load and unload shipments. A container crane, also known as a portainer, is a large dockside crane in the form of a specialized type of gantry crane used to load and unload container ships, which are positioned at container terminals. Container cranes are generally classified by their lifting capacity. A modern container crane capable of lifting two 20 foot long containers at one time will generally have a lifting capacity of about 65 tonnes from under the Spreader. Shanghai based Zhenhua Port Machinery Company (ZPMC) is the worldâ€™s largest manufacturer of container cranes which they deliver fully assembled as shown in the pictures below. The cranes are at least 73 metres high with the booms down and can reach up to 103 metres high with booms up. This is only the standard type of container crane. ZPMC can build a larger type of crane which can reach a height higher than the standard crane. These cranes are shipped when already assembled from China and ready for installation at any harbour. If Harbour Nuem (possibly could be placed on Bosniaâ€™s own Peninsula Klek) is planning to order a portainer for installation, it is crucial to have a safe shipment route under the Peljesac Bridge. The height of the bridge above sea level should be high enough to make way for any type of massive sea shipment along the Adriatic Coast.
ZPMC Shanghai Zhenhua Port Machinery official website (http://www.zpmc.com)
PACECO CORP official website (http://www.pacecocorp.com)
Ports of Auckland official website (http://www.poal.co.nz)
Google Earth official website (http://earth.google.com)
Omer Ajanovic, Counsellor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Nedzad Ajanovic, Field Programme Officer, Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Budapest, Hungary.