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Port Operator Boss Says New Infrastructure Needed

Ljubljana, 05 March (STA) - The chairman of the only Slovenian sea port believes that for the port to remain competitive, Slovenia needs to build new infrastructure and upgrade the existing one.

With the port focussing ever more on container cargo, we need to build a third terminal in the port, Gregor Veselko of Luka Koper told the daily Dnevnik on Saturday.

"Upgrading the railways, including [building] a second rail [in the southwest of the country] is another necessity in order to increase the amount of cargo that can be transported into Luka Koper or out out it."

Unfortunately, we are still waiting for both, said Veselko, and added that it was hard to say how much longer Luka Koper will have the supremacy over the nearby ports of Trieste, Italy and Rijeka, Croatia, as both have ambitious plans.

It is therefore critical that the state zoning plan for the port of Koper is adopted as soon as possible. Veselko hopes that after Italy has given its opinion on it, which should happen within 60 days, the processes of its adoption would be sped up.

"I believe Luka Koper's development bothers the Italians because are have proved to be more flexible, more competitive and more successful in several areas."

Koper's competitive advantage is proved, according to Veselko, by foreign shipping companies, which work more with the Slovenian port than with the other ports in the region.

Nevertheless, the company will have to work hard to avert a possible threat of certain shipping companies leaving it, said Veselko, who has been at the helm of the port company since the middle of 2009.

He believes that apart from upgrading the existing infrastructure and building some new one, a good investment policy would be needed to focus on profitable cargo and deals.

Veselko keeps opposing a plan to join Luka Koper, Intereuropa and railways Slovenske zeleznice into a logistics holding as pushed for by the government to save the indebted railway company.

He said the port's clients reacted rather negatively to the idea, with some shipping companies going as far as threatening to leave Koper if the holding was formed.

"They have come to us because we are neutral and open to all," said Veselko, adding he could not support an idea that could put at risk business with the port's clients.

Luka Koper generated EUR 127.7m in operating revenues in 2010, which is up 10% on 2009 but still below EUR 137.2m generated in 2008. The group managed to decrease net loss to EUR 1.6m, from EUR 66.6m in 2009.

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