UPLS May 5, 2022

The process of establishing passenger transport on the Sava and Danube rivers in Belgrade, which is underway, was covered in the media mainly from the daily political side. This text will provide a view from the point of view of the profession free from the influence of politics. Based on the available data, we will consider the positive and negative aspects of this project.

Belgrade lies on two large international navigable rivers, with a total coastline of about 200km. The geographical position itself speaks in favor of the idea of ​​establishing urban passenger traffic, in fact, it would be more correct to say the renewal of local passenger traffic on the rivers Sava and Danube. In the first half of the XX century, there was a decently developed ship's passenger traffic, ships connected all major places on the coast. With the development of road and railway infrastructure, comfort and speed of road and rail vehicles, as well as the acceleration of the way of life, ships were slowly pushed out of the market and their further use was no longer economically viable.
Ship passenger traffic found itself in a situation that is much slower and more expensive, it remained only in traces at locations where road and railway infrastructure is not built. The sinking of the ship Nis 9.9.1952. at the confluence of the Sava and the Danube and drowning between 120 and 150 passengers, the exact number of victims has never been determined, a tragedy considered a record number of lives lost in peacetime navigation on inland waterways in Europe has further reduced interest in shipping.
An important part of the story of passenger river traffic are the famous hydrofoils known as rockets. They operated on the Belgrade-Kladovo route during the XNUMXs and XNUMXs.

The rockets are good for comparison, with the current project, they have a lot of similarities. This type of ship has successfully solved the speed in relation to land transport. In today's conditions, traveling to Belgrade Kladovo would still be faster and more comfortable by rocket than by bus, but also many times more expensive. From the very beginning, it was clear that the rockets have no economic viability, ie that the income from the tickets covers only a part of the shipping costs. They sailed as a state project and the difference was covered by the state, which solved the traffic strategic problem with those ships in a certain period. In order to understand business with a minus, you need to look at the bigger picture. In that period, huge projects were realized in the area of ​​Kladovo and neighboring cities, and there was a need for fast passenger traffic. This is the time of construction of HPP Djerdap 1 and 2, and the accompanying infrastructure. In addition, with their attractiveness, they raised the tourist offer of the area and in the end they can be seen as a matter of prestige and power of the state that was behind the project. Rockets go down in history when their basic purpose was no longer needed by the state at that price, and land transport was developed so that it could meet the needs of the area much cheaper.

We are reaching the XNUMXst century, the transport of passengers on rivers when it comes to our vessels is only in the traces. There are a small number of ferries, boats and boats, which perform the work of the ferry crossing and daily tourist excursions. At the ferry crossings, the condition for existence is compensating for the absence of bridges and making a profit. There is a benefit on both sides. The price of transportation is such that the operator makes a profit, and the passenger gets a faster and cheaper way than a possible alternative route by land. In the case of tourist vessels, the condition for existence is the location visited by tourists and their interest in touring the location from the water. Such vessels that sail successfully, in order to remain successful, must, in addition to an attractive location, provide a high degree of safety, comfort and quality content to their guests. They represent a special category and in their operation are slightly different parameters of economic viability, ie they are not comparable to regular passenger traffic.
When it comes to regular passenger transport in the form of city traffic, if we exclude ferry crossings by motor boats that exist and work successfully and we observe only regular passenger ships, the first attempt in the area of ​​Belgrade was the project "Metro on Water" from 2008. Very similar concept to the current project. Test runs were performed in the summer of 2008 with two ships "Carpie Diem" and "Danka". Unfortunately, until the conclusion of this text, we did not find an official report from these rehearsals, if it exists at all. It is hoped that at least the holders of the new project are familiar with the results of these rehearsals. From the experiences of colleagues who were in the crews of these ships in that period, the following conclusions can be drawn:
- the ticket price does not cover the costs of the voyage,
- little interest of citizens in using the service,
-poor connection of the port with land transport,
-small number of options and elaborated plans in emergencies and dangerous situations.

Finally, here we are in 2022 before a new attempt. The first conclusion that emerges is that there is no economic viability, the income from the tickets does not cover the costs. If it was an economically viable transport, the private sector would have established lines and traffic a long time ago, and the lack of profit is a factor that prevents the existence of such an endeavor. It remains to look at the bigger picture, that is, whether doing business with a deficit brings a benefit that justifies the invested funds.

-Attractive and comfortable transportation, raises the tourist offer and accompanying activities.
- The arrangement of the port zones, the appearance of a larger circulation of people in these hubs will lead to the expansion of the accompanying contents in the field of catering and trade.
-Opening new jobs, ship crews, piers and accompanying facilities.
-Increasing the accessibility and getting to know the rivers, to a larger number of citizens. Possible effect on increasing activities in the field of recreational nautical.
- From the point of view of boatmen, the greatest benefit of the existence of such a fleet is the creation of conditions for quality training of trainees and students in accordance with regulations. The profession would get a starting point for forming new generations of boatmen and gaining their first experiences on the water under the supervision of more experienced colleagues.
-Smaller number of cars on bridges, if the quality of water and road traffic is satisfactory, ships can be a comfortable alternative to avoid crowds on Belgrade's bridges in rush hour. If 500 drivers during one cycle of ships decide to travel from one shore to another by boat, a positive effect will be achieved on the flow of traffic on bridges.

The formation of such a system is accompanied by problems and compromise solutions. Very often the solution of one problem creates several new ones, the success of the project depends on the quality of planning, anticipation of possible problems and their solutions. Currently, no technical data and details are known, as well as the planned solutions, the following are general challenges.
As always, the safety of passengers and crew is in the first place. Modern ships are designed to be safe, provided that procedures and rules are followed. Achieving the maximum level of protection requires the formation of situational plans, ie anticipation of any possible risk to the safety of passengers, crew and vessels and adequate procedures for prevention and response. Plans are accompanied by crew equipment and training, as well as effective implementation control. Even when everything is respected, dangerous situations will inevitably occur as a consequence of the human factor, primarily a large number of passengers and their possible actions, to which the crew and the system must have prepared reactions. Reacting to various ways of endangering safety will be the biggest challenge for the crews of these ships.
It is known from the media that one ship is in reserve on active duty. A good solution in case of failure and the need to evacuate passengers. It is not known whether support teams will be formed.
In the interest of safety, the preferred solution is to provide and equip two smaller fast vessels and SART teams on active duty during the working hours of ships, and with the function of supporting the crews of passenger ships in a short time, when there is a need for support. situational plans. These teams should be an integral part of the fleet, relying on state services is not a purposeful solution at the moment, the available resources of state bodies are not enough, nor is the speed of their reaction.
In the end, the biggest and perhaps unsolvable problem remains. A factor that can reduce the whole project to just one more attempt. Forming a crew at this point seems impossible. For 11 ships, 22 crews are needed, ie a minimum of 22 navigators in the title of Commander of type A with a special authorization to operate a passenger ship. The qualifications needed to work on river cruisers, there is no cheap way to motivate navigators with these qualifications in that number to leave their current jobs and accept a job on the city line. There are 22 sailors examined, the same problem as with navigators. The last position in the minimum crew is the title of trainee, there will be no problems for that position.
Realistic estimate that it is possible to form crews for the operation of a maximum of 4 ships. It is not realistic to expect the employer to offer better crew conditions than the conditions those crews already have on the passenger ships on which they are currently engaged. The current situation on the labor market is such that there are no free crew members.
The most valuable resource in river transport is a quality and trained crew, the safety and efficiency of the vessel directly depends on the quality of the crew. Masters of ships in planned passenger traffic must be experienced and of high quality. Although these are relatively small ships, at least when it comes to their size, the planned capacity of one hundred passengers puts the commander in a demanding working environment.
The process of training and gaining navigator experience is very long. Current changes in regulations will enable faster internships and acquisition of titles. It will not affect the time required to gain the experience and skills needed to get from a novice navigator to an experienced commander as needed to transport passengers.

We will follow the further development of events and publish the observations of the profession on the applied solutions and answers to the challenges of river passenger transport in Belgrade.
We wish the participants of the project calm water, successful and efficient solutions to the problems they will soon face.