River Danube traffic between Bulgaria and Serbia partially resumed at the end of June, immediately after NATO'S air war against Yugoslavia finished, according to officials from Bulgaria's state Danube navigation company.
"Bulgarian ships are running to Serbian Danube ports, even up to Novi Sad," said the chief of the Bulgarian River Navigation Authority (BRNA) Dimitar Stanchev. Serbian ships are also running to Bulgarian Danube ports, as well as to Romanian and Ukrainian ports, he added. He said traffic was much less than before the airstrikes but said he could not give volumes at this stage. There have been press reports of a Bulgarian private shipping company planning to open a regular line from the Bulgarian port of Lom to Prahovo in Serbia, hoping to attract tourists and traders. Shipping on the Danube was halted during NATO air war against Yugoslavia earlier this year as key bridges on the river were destroyed and damaged.
Fifteen percent of Bulgaria's foreign trade, halted since the first destroyed bridge blocked the river on April 1, was with western Europe, officials say.
BRNA had already cut its staff due to lower traffic volumes and Stanchev said further cuts were possible. Romanian shippers symbolically
blocked Danube early last week, demanding the restoration of the destroyed bridges. A Danube Commission fact-finding team estimated that 90 million euros would be needed to clear the waterway and rebuild the bridges.