Serbia could be a regional hub for the distribution of goods
Chinese company COSCO SHIPPING and its new services have been present in the domestic market for several years already. Dragon Maritime Group is the general representative of this company for the market of South-east Europe. Erich Cossutta, President of Dragon Maritime Group, talks for Diplomacy&Commerce magazine about the importance of cooperation with the Chinese company, the One Belt, One Road project, and also the future of logistics in this part of Europe.
What plans does COSCO SHIP-PING have for our region?
— COSCO SHIPPING is China’s largest shipping company, owner of the Greek port of Piraeus and also of the world’s third-largest container shipping company. The company’s goal is to get more involved in projects in Serbia, and aside from increasing the frequency of the direct Piraeus-Belgrade line, they are also interested in developing multimodal terminals and railway infrastructure. After the launch of the One Belt, One Road project, the Chinese company slightly shifted its focus and moved it to the mainland. They are now focused on cooperation with the railway, which is of vital importance for them because we perform a large part of our operations via this form of transport. Our expansion is based on the development of multimodal transport. Serbia is interesting to the Chinese company because it lies at the intersection of corridors. Two years ago, we established the first service and connected the Piraeus Port with European markets. In the first phase, we established railway connections between the Piraeus Port and the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary, and we subsequently rounded off the project with the links with Serbia, Macedonia and Bulgaria. This concludes the connecting of the markets of Southeast Europe and the Far East.
Can you tell us how important is the launch of the One Belt, One Road project for this entire process?
— This project is one of the greatest infrastructural projects in history. Its value is measured in hundreds of billions of dollars. In the range of this project, our region is right at the end or is one of the destinations along the road, which means that it is right in the middle of the strongest possible focus. The One Belt, One Road project has also enabled the goods to travel 10 days faster thanks to our service, which is very important for the economy. This makes this transport mode the most economically viable, and such a connection attracts new investors. Apart from labour costs, the flow of goods is also very important. We see the potential and we are aware that Serbia attracts 50% of total foreign direct investments in the region. Serbia is becoming a big industrial centre. The fact that Serbia lies on Corridor 10 and is one of the key locations for the One Belt, One Road project, just puts a strong focus on Belgrade. The city is perfectly connected via a network of motorways, airports and railroads. Neighbouring countries are nearby, hence we see Belgrade as one of the more relevant centres in the region.
What were the previous results of your service?
— Like the entire market, we too are growing. Today, COSCO is one of the strongest market stakeholders with double-digit growth rates across our entry corridors – Koper, Rijeka and Piraeus. We became leaders not only in maritime but also in railway transport, and I believe that this trend will continue in the future.
How satisfied are you with the entire business environment in Serbia?
— We are extremely satisfied with the work done by the Serbian government, which understood the gravity of the project of connecting the Far East and Serbia via Greece. They also support the great focus on corridors, the Belgrade-Budapest railroad, as well as the improvement of transport links between North Macedonia and Belgrade. Consolidating the logistics aspect should be one of the priorities for the Government. It is important that Vinci entered the Belgrade Airport as this will certainly boost air cargo transport. The planned intermodal centres are also very important. Centres in Serbia are important because they are the most significant factor in development of business environment and prosperity.