IBNA Op-Ed/ “Albania has had in the past, but lost at the present all its chances to turn into a regional center of port services; it was enough to take advantage of its geographical favorable position between East and West”
By Fatmir Toci
MP of the Socialist Party, publisher of books
The bill “On the safety in ships and ports”, offers us the opportunity to take a quick glance on the current state of our ports and the situation in the service of the sea transport through passengers and freight ships.
The truth is that Albania drafts laws according to the conditions and standards of the countries of the European Union in the framework of the objectives and aspiration for a quick integration in the European family.
But, Albanian ports, the surrounding environment, terminals, border control services, custom controls, the passengers’ areas and the inventory of our sea navigation transport, for fishing or tourists, leave too much to desire.
A few changes and more expenses have been finally made in the port of Durres.
But nonetheless, we are far from European standards and this port, even today, 20 years after the country opened to the world, seems like a large military garrison, surrounded by wires and guards, bringing a damaging isolation of the life of the city and the economic activity which enable ports throughout the world.
Albania has had in the past, but lost at the present all its chances to turn into a regional center of port services; it was enough to take advantage of its geographical favorable position between East and West.
But, the infrastructure offered until now, not only by ports, but also by roads and railways, has never attracted the attention of other countries to use our ports for commerce, passengers and tourism.
Meanwhile, within the country, it has never encouraged a domestic transport between our ports from North to South.
The main cause has been and continues to relate to the wrong practices, corruptive affairs and concessions favoring clients, the inadequate assessment for the importance and the resources of exchanges at sea, poor management of capacities and the incomes generated by this sector.
According to specialists of this sector and information received by travel agents, the fees applied for the processing of goods and passenger tickets are twice as much as those applied in the ports of other countries in the region such as Greece, Montenegro, Croatia and Italy, although sea distances are greater.
To be convinced on this, it’s enough to see how much the flux of passengers and the transport of goods that move from different countries of Europe through the ports of Italy toward Kosovo and FYROM through our ports has dropped.
Due to these high prices of tickets, the ports of Tivar, Dubrovnik, Igumenica or Patra, but also due to the safety and services offered to customers, are more preferred than our ports of Durres and Vlora.
Albania is the only Mediterranean country which is not a destination for cruisers, a gigantic business for every country involved in its map. And the main cause for this relates to the state of ports, infrastructure and port services.
This situation with the sea transport service in Albania must be put to an end.
Along with the bill on the safety in ships and ports, we must also demand the introduction of obligatory standards of the passengers’ service through sea transport, like European coastal countries.
We must give way to competition for all companies that want to offer their services in our sea lines.
Apart from the services which will meet contemporary standards and standards for the safety of passengers, this would only lead to falling costs for the service and a shorter itinerary of journeys through the introduction of quick lines like other countries do.
Note: The stances taken by the author do not represent the editorial policy of Independent Balkan News Agency