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Well positioned between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea

Slovenia – size doesn’t matter

Traveling through Slovenia, you will discover the incredible variety of landscapes that this small country has to offer: from the high mountain ranges of the Alps to the gentle hilly country in the “center” to the coast on the Adriatic Sea, which is only 46.6 kilometers long. Koper, Slovenia's gateway to the world, is located on this coast: cranes, container ships and ISO containers are characteristic of the port, which is not only one of the most significant employers in the region, but also a crucial logistics hub and driving force for important infrastructure projects.

60% forest and 500 brown bears

At just 20,273 km², Slovenia is the fourth smallest country in the EU and home to 2,1 million inhabitants. Geographically speaking, the green state borders not only the Central European Alpine region, but also the Balkan Peninsula, sharing a 670-kilometer-long national border with Croatia, 330 kilometers with Austria, 218 kilometers with Italy and 102 kilometers with Hungary.
Preserving the fauna, flora and habitat diversity is a matter close to the country's heart. That is why 13% of the national territory is protected and numerous natural wonders attract many tourists every year. More than 60% of the country is covered with forest. And hard to believe, but true: there are about 500 brown bears living in the Slovenian forests.

Intersection between Central and Southeastern Europe

Thanks to its special geostrategic position between Central and Southeastern Europe, there are several important transport routes that cross paths in Slovenia. Due to its position between the Mediterranean Sea, the Alps, the Dinaric Mountains and the Pannonian Plain, as well as along some important rivers, the main traffic routes in the region were already established back in ancient times. Furthermore, the course of two Pan-European Transport Corridors V (from the Northern Adriatic to Central and Eastern Europe) and X (linking Central Europe to the Balkans) puts the country in a special economic, social and cultural position within Europe and the EU. Both corridors intersect in Ljubljana, the country’s capital. Additionally, Slovenia knows how to effectively take advantage of this favorable location at the crossroads of cultures and economic areas.

From “Brotherhood and Unity” to “Corridor X”

Today, Slovenia has 400 kilometers of modern highways. At 80%, road freight and passenger traffic make up the largest share of traffic in Slovenia.
The first highway was built back in 1958 by the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia under the motto “Brotherhood and Unity.” A section of the “Autoput” Ljubljana-Zagreb-Belgrade-Skopje ran through what is now Slovenia. The 1990s saw the expansion and modernization of the highway network. By the beginning of 2012, a 528-kilometer network of highways and various expressways had been built. The longest highway, being part of the Pan-European Transport Corridor X, connects Maribor with Ljubljana and the port city of Koper on the Adriatic coast.

From the most dangerous to the most important road

The Autoput, which was considered the most dangerous road in Europe during the “Yugoslav breakup wars” in the early 1990s, is now once again one of the most important main European traffic route. It connects Greece – including the key ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki – to the industrial and production centers of Central and Western Europe. In total, the transit route runs 1,188 km from Austria across the Balkans to Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey – with Slovenia “in the middle.”

Koper – gateway to the Adriatic, gateway to the world

The 46.6-kilometer-long Adriatic coast of Slovenia has it all. Not only is it extremely beautiful, but it also has three ports in Koper, Izola and Piran, with the former being by far the most important port. It was not built until 1957 but since then it has been in commercial competition with the port of Trieste, which is not far away (in fact, the Italian border is only “a stone’s throw or two” away). In terms of container handling, the port is the largest in the northern Adriatic. The geographical advantage is obvious: Koper is 2,000 nautical miles closer to destinations east of the Suez Canal than the “traditional” ports in northern Europe. Land transport by road and rail to Central Europe is also a good 500 kilometers shorter.

The port is growing fast. By comparison: in 2011, it handled more than 17 million tons of cargo and nearly 590,000 TEUs. In 2018, it was already handling a record 24 million tons of cargo and 988,000 TEUs. The focus is mainly on container handling: in 2022, a new record of 1,017,788 TEU was reached – the port finally broke the one million mark!

Expansion at all levels

The plans for the port are even bigger: Koper is to become the most important port and provider of global logistics solutions for Central and Eastern European countries. This will require fast, modern and efficient transport links. So one important concern of the port (and the government) is not only to expand the facilities at the pier, but also to modernize the entire railroad network and build a second railroad connection between Koper and Divača.

Slovenia has received around 250 million euros in EU funding for the construction of this new 34-kilometer railway line. Another 200 million euros will come from the Slovenian government, and a further 300 million euros is to be secured through loans from the European Investment Bank. The line is scheduled for completion in 2025. These are large amounts for such a short distance – but this is due to the scenic challenges of the route along the coast.

Further modernization needed

The renovated double-track railroad line should be up and running in 2026. By 2030, the joint-stock company Luka Koper d.d., which operates the port, expects to increase the port’s annual capacity to 40 million tons and that of the container terminal to 2.2 million TEU.

An important challenge for the development of the port is the water depth. The water here is only 7 to 18 meters deep which means ships must have a capacity of under 180,000 tons to enter. At the moment, the largest container giants would not even be able to dock here, as the port can only handle ships that can hold a maximum volume of 15,200 TEU.

More capacity through new tracks

And speaking of challenges: the rest of the country’s existing rail network is also in need of modernization. It was built in the 19th century and is considered to be for the most part obsolete. Slovenian Railways operate 1,229 kilometers of standard gauge, of which 331 kilometers are double track. But because of a lack of finances, the maintenance and modernization of the network was neglected for many years. The aging infrastructure is also contributing to the decline in the share of rail freight, despite the fact that it is increasing slightly in general terms.

Ljubljana Airport: a small but fine hub for SEE

Although the airport in Ljubljana is not the largest among its competitors in the surrounding regions, the wholly-owned Fraport subsidiary is considered efficient and flexible and has an adequate air cargo infrastructure. So here, too, Slovenia is showing its strength on a smaller scale: the good road network and proximity to the port of Koper are paying off, and the growing rail network will add to this potential in the future.

copyright Miran Kambic

Warehouse expansion in Ljubljana

In 2019, cargo-partner opened its logistics complex in the immediate vicinity of Ljubljana Airport, one of the largest in the cargo-partner group and in the region. Due to rapid business growth and increased market demand, the warehouse reached its capacity within one year, resulting in an expansion earlier than originally planned. The new building increases the logistics center’s total capacity from 25,000 m² to 39,100 m². This investment of 12 million euros will create 30 new jobs within cargo-partner’s team in Slovenia.

With both buildings combined, the iLogistics Center now provides a total of 48,000 pallet slots in four different racking systems. Modern climate control systems ensure that an active temperature regime of +15 to +25 °C is maintained in the entire warehouse area, where short- and long-term storage is available. Thanks to its flexible design, the facility is ideally suited for rapid transshipment, storage of oversized goods, multi-modal services and high-tech logistics solutions. The logistics center now has 59 loading docks for all vehicle types, enabling an efficient flow of goods and quick distribution in the wider region.

Part of the new facility is designed specifically for fulfilment services, including a parcel pickup and return point. Additionally, the facility has a drone landing pad, hinting at the not-too-distant future of parcel delivery.