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Koper Port at Watershed Moment, Maritime Panel Hears

Koper, 22 May (STA) - The future of the Koper Port was in focus at a maritime panel held on Tuesday. Luka Koper CEO Gregor Veselko stressed the importance of a strategic partner for the long-term development of the port, while economist Jože Damijan sees the future in creating a port authority with at least two concessionaires.

Port operator Luka Koper is looking at large infrastructure projects which are "extremely capital intensive", Veselko told the panel.

He said the company could alone finance investments only up to a certain extent, but for anything more alternative sources would need to be found. "In this context a question of a strategic partner is likely to arise very soon," he stressed.

With transshipment on the increase, Luka Koper is at a watershed moment, Veselko said, adding that if things are to be move forward, a "concrete form of cooperation with a strategic partner would become urgently necessary".

Professor at the Ljubljana Faculty of Economics Jože Damijan on the other hand believes that a strategic partner is not necessary at this point, "but if Slovenian politics fails to decide what to do with the strategic development of the port, this will be unavoidable".

Luka Koper is stagnating and is currently in a very bad capital condition, and would as such need a strategic partner, he stressed.

In the long run, a port authority would need to be formed, together with at least one more concessionary in addition to Luka Koper. The second concessionary would build a third pier and a second rail track between Divača and Koper, Damijan believes.

"This would lead to a normal management structure and utilization of port capacities as is in the case of majority of other ports in Western Europe," he said.

Some of the problems Luka Koper is facing are also due to state ownership, he believes. "If the port operator was to be privatised through a strategic partner and the state stake reduced to say 25%, then the politics would lose its influence and this would have beneficial effect on the port's future growth," he pointed out.

Veselko meanwhile stressed that a port authority would have both strengths and weaknesses: "If we look back, the benefits of the current configuration outweigh the weaknesses." He stressed that a strategic partner would not necessary mean that a port authority needs to be created.

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