Kontakt Flappe öffnen
A talk with Port of Koper management board member Metod Podkrižnik

“Our vision is to become the leading port and logistics system for Central and Eastern Europe”

The Port of Koper is known as the ideal gateway to the CEE region. We interviewed Metod Podkrižnik, member of the management board, to talk to us about their most recent projects.

Interviewer: Europe’s leading ports are facing infrastructural changes and planning extensive investments. One reason for this lies in the steadily growing sizes of container ships – the 20,000 TEU mark was reached in 2016 – which represent an enormous challenge for ports. Better quays have to be built, the depth of the harbor basin has to be adapted, and space needs to be made for the higher number of containers. How do you rate these developments and is Koper prepared for these changes?

Metod Podkrižnik: Koper is well prepared for those changes. We can accommodate container ships of 20,000 TEU and we are already equipped with super-post-Panamax STS cranes. At the moment, the biggest container ships calling Koper have a capacity of 14,000 TEUs. To meet the requirements of our customers, we are now speeding up our investment plans, mostly related to new infrastructure. We are placing special focus on projects that will increase productivity, improve internal port logistics and optimize the use of space as well as IT projects that will make our port processes work more smoothly. With these infrastructure investments and organizational improvements, we are confident that we will retain our position as the leading container terminal in the North Adriatic and one of the biggest car transport terminals in the Mediterranean area.

With a total turnover of 911,500 TEUs in 2017, Koper is the number one port in the Adriatic Sea. What are your goals for this year and what targets do you want to achieve in the long term?

Our goal for this year is to reach 980,000 TEUs. We plan to start the extension of the container terminal quay side this year, and by 2020, the capacity of our container terminal will reach 1.3 million TEUs. As for the long term, our vision is to become the leading port and logistics system for Central and Eastern Europe. Our strategic business segments are containers and cars; however, we want to preserve the multi-purpose nature of the port.

As the world’s leading export nation, China is massively investing in several transport corridors and market opportunities as part of the “New Silk Road” project. Beside upgrading the Trans-Asian railway capacities, China has also bought the Port of Piraeus in Greece and is financing an important railway corridor on the Balkans. Do you view those strong endeavors as a challenge to your own business?

Shippers, or rather, all logistics players are constantly looking for alternatives. We see the projects you mentioned as a long term challenge, and that’s why we are firmly responding with our ambitious plans regarding port infrastructure. Our optimism is based also on the commitment of the new Slovenian government to continue the construction of the new rail track between the port and the hinterland. We are confident that our Chinese partners, who already use Koper as their entry port to European markets, will recognize our potential. 

The port of Koper has a significant geographical advantage with the immediate proximity to the CEE region. Following its pleasing growth, the capacities of the rail connections to and from the port are reaching their limits. Do you know if there are any future developments set to upgrade these connections?

As a port operator we understand the necessity to ensure that proper infrastructure is built to provide opportunities for further volumes growth. Hinterland, especially railway infrastructure is vital if we want to be recognized as a reliable and effective transport route and continue the planned growth. The government of Slovenia is moving on with the new railway line Koper-Divača and we hope the project will be completed quickly. The law concerning the financing of the new track is already adopted and preparation works will start in due time. In the meantime, we are examining further options to increase the capacity of the railway line between the port and the hinterland.

Some observers believe that Donald Trump’s protectionist economic policy and the impending Brexit might lead to stagnation in the progress of globalization. Do you see a risk that these developments could cause lasting harm to our industry?

Such developments could lead to changes in logistics routes that could affect our port as well. In general, the business environment is becoming more unpredictable, with huge technological progress and changing business models, complex political situations, environmental and social issues. Whatever these challenges may bring, it will be crucial to prepare our operations and processes early enough, but the risk of unexpected threats is always around the corner. We definitely live in times when the ‘new normal’ happens every few years.

“We are confident that our Chinese partners, who already use Koper as their entry port to European markets, will recognize our potential.” 

Metod Podkrižnik on China’s ambitions for the port of Piraeus and infrastructure projects in the Balkans.

“Our intermodal split is close to 60% in favor of rail transport, which is well above average compared to other ports.”

Rail connections are planned to increase with the upcoming extensions and upgrades of railroads.

The steady progress of digitalization provides many improvements and previously unexpected opportunities in port proceedings: consolidation of cargo, processing time, container storage, etc. What are your plans in this regard, and do you place special emphasis on any specific aspect of these plans? 

There are many minor and more demanding IT projects currently going on which are aimed to improve the performance of the terminals, safety, planning and customer experience. One of the major recent achievements is the upgraded car terminal operating system, which follows the modern trends of the supply chains with standardized data exchange, better overview of field operations and faster communication between the customer and the terminal. By the end of the year we plan to start with a new vehicle booking system, which should improve our internal port logistics and reduce waiting times.
Another aspect is related to the environment. The machinery which we are currently purchasing, such as cranes, forklifts, yard trucks, etc. are equipped with various smart systems, which help reduce gas emissions and noise and increase the level of safety during operations.

cargo-partner views the port of Koper as one of the most important hubs for its business operations in the CEE region. Additionally, the company has recently expanded its storage capacities in Slovenia with the upcoming iLogistics Center at Ljubljana Airport, further confirming the country’s importance for cargo-partner’s worldwide network. And cargo-partner is not the only company with this approach. How do explain that this country with 2 million inhabitants in the heart of Europe plays such a vital role in transport and logistics?

Slovenia lies at the crossroads of important cargo flows, which are also recognized as the EU’s key transport corridors. With the growth of various production plants, factories and engineering projects around Central Europe, especially in the last decade, the logistics sector has followed the economic growth of these countries, which are in many cases relying on oversea supply of raw materials or components. The Port of Koper has prepared itself for those changes with investments, especially in port infrastructure and superstructure, and developed efficient hinterland connections, mainly railway connections. In fact, our intermodal split is close to 60% in favor of rail transport, which is well above average compared to other ports.We will continue this development to keep our competitive advantage.
Last but not least, we have built good relationships with customers, based on trust and flexibility toward their needs. Today, many global logistics players and manufacturers rely on the port of Koper and include it in their supply chain.

Thank you for the interview and best of success with your upcoming projects.

About cargo-partner in Slovenia

cargo-partner has been present in Slovenia since 1996 and has been constantly growing since then. In 2017, we had 93 employees at our offices in Ljubljana and Koper. In August 2018 cargo-partner celebrated the official start of construction of its modern warehouse facility near Ljubljana Airport. The iLogistics Center will provide 25,000 m² of storage space and is scheduled to take up operations in 2019. cargo-partner will also expand its team in Slovenia to 120 employees.