November 9, 2020 - Ranka Vukasovic Botica is a shipbuilding engineer and expert associate at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture in Rijeka. Born in Kotor, she moved to Rijeka, Croatia, with her husband Vedran Botica, also a shipbuilding engineer, where she has run one of the most successful and respected project bureaus in this part of the world for years. MARDESIGN boasts a collaboration with many reputable names in the world of shipbuilding and industry such as Rolls Royce, Damen, STX France, Nordic Yards, STX Finland, Fincantieri, HDW, and Blohm & Voss.
Do you think that Montenegro is using the fact that it is a maritime and coastal country in the right way?
Ranka Vukasovic Botica: As we would say in Boka- you can always do better. The fact is that Montenegro has excellent potential in terms of natural resources, and especially the sea and the coast. In this sense, some positive steps have been made, especially in tourism, especially nautical yachting tourism. But, I am not sure that a long-term development strategy has been made, and its clearly noticeable that further development started spontaneously after the first positive results, with the sole goal of producing a short term profit. All this is to the detriment of other elements in society, especially the local population. From that side, I do not see that Montenegro is going in the right direction.
Montenegro has many adopted documents, and unfortunately, those documents are just words on paper; no one sticks to them. And that's where other problems arise, staffing problems- who is it who implements rules and strategies? People who are sailors, people from the sea, do not adopt or implement plans. They are not even consulted about what they know best. It can be seen that politics has a significant influence, and this excludes knowledge, ability, vision. The only criterion is party affiliation, and that, of course, should not be the case.
Although many institutions, directorates, and inspectorates nominally deal with the sea in Montenegro, it seems that the current economic interest constantly outweighs ecological and sustainabilty demands. Do you believe this to be so?
Ranka Vukasovic Botica: Two years ago, when I was preparing for a presentation on the occasion of the CESMA event (the annual assembly of the European Captains' Association, when representatives of 23 countries meet), then I dealt intensively with all these problems. From the first realization that Montenegro declared itself as an ecological state, it tried to pass many laws by the constitution. It has rules on ports, ecology, air protection, a law on yachts, nature protection, fisheries. And that's all right. That would all be part of what the European Union is asking from us. Negotiating teams have been formed to open Chapter 27 (Environment and Climate Change). But then I read the pages and pages of all those reports, and what I concluded: that it all exists declaratively, but never with the ultimate goal of solving the problem.
At that time, I analyzed the quality of seawater, how much care is taken of the marine ecosystem, and what kind of air we breathe. I addressed some organizations; I addressed official Podgorica, then the Port of Kotor. I had a few priority questions, e.g., how to deal with acceptance of ship's waste. And the biggest problem - emissions of harmful gases, i.e., whether the use of MGO fuel is controlled with a reduced content of sulfides and nitrides, SOX. An EU directive applies to the entire Adriatic and the Bay of Kotor as an integral part of it. The port authority should have that written in its books, but no one has done it.
At that presentation, I even had a meeting with one of the shipowners who was quite angry at me asking such a question because ultimately it means cost. But those who need to control how they live are not asked, what do they breathe?
In a conversation with the inspector of navigation safety, the only one certified for the area of Kotor to Budva, we received information that there were very few cruisers this year. Still, they performed controls based on those fuel usage logs. He claims that shippers ado not risk to violate directives because of draconian penalties. In terms of control, they are counting on Croatian waters' proximity and claim that we should not be afraid of cruisers using hard oil sailing our territorial waters due to EU regulations.
Ranka Vukasovic Botica: I don't think that's precisely the case because the first port of entry, as far as the review of documents is concerned, is Bar. And as far as these documents are concerned, since the ship docks in Kotor, it should be Kotor. I know because I talked to some environmental associations from Dubrovnik, and it's the same thing. Everyone is in favor of shipowners. No one wants to take offense. Dubrovnik believes that Kotor did that. So the proximity of the European Union if there are no specific penalties, certain regulations, dedicated control, each of them, will try to smuggle. From this year, January 1, 2020, the 0.5% m / m is in force, that massive share is in the mix, so now maybe something has changed; so far, it has not been like that. Selection could be made here, as most ships will install devices like scrubbers, which reduce all those emissions, and then we should see what type of vessels enter.
The downside of this corona situation is that all traffic and cruising has stopped, but the positive side is that they are forced not to have such high costs. All these shipowners will have to remove some of the ships from their fleet in some way. A large number went to the cutting plant, for example, in Turkey. You have the Turkish Port of Aliaga, near Izmir. That shipyard was called the Cruiser Cemetery. It has all the relevant ecology certificates. Let's say the Carnival group sent 30 boats to the scrapyard. It will eliminate these problems, using heavy fuel, and go for new, environmentally friendly solutions such as LNG use or scrubbers' installation. It is also not a cheap procedure. A lot has to change onboard, the ship has to dock, and it is a time-consuming process. But, as they say, what must be done is not difficult.
I also read many reports in Chapter 27, where Montenegro stated that it does not have enough financial resources. There are pages and pages of such information in these reports. I concluded that very little progress has been made. In any case, Montenegro will have to adopt some annual work programs, some strategic plans on how to manage marine traffic, and how to protect the ecosystem. We don't have the right people in the right places.
Montenegro has enough educational institutions; there are enough qualified people who could start the work. It is sad for me, for example, that most seafarers, as they are not politically active, are in no way involved in maritime-related decisions. They do not influence their destiny. They do not have an impact on the development of Montenegro as a maritime country.
All these recently built marinas have indeed had positive economic effects. They have made exceptional progress in promotion. They are promoters of Montenegro; they have improved the country's image; they have improved the appearance in terms of Montenegro's hospitality. There must have been an increase in budget revenues, an increase in the foreign exchange balance, and many people have been employed. But the local population was neglected. No strategy has been developed around access roads. We have an airport, but there has been no further improved development of the airport. The focus is only on nautical tourism. In the long run, you are at a loss. There is a change of population, an increase in the cost of living; an outside labor force is being hired.
Montenegro thinks that it is raising money from abroad and that these are positive investments, but you now depend on these external banks or investors. It is not good that Montenegro relies on tourism. At the same time, you have a lot of yachts and little space to repair them. There is a large quality workforce in Boka that could ensure our bay is also attractive in a year like we're having now. There is a lot of room for development here too.
To be entrusted now to organize the maritime economy in Montenegro better, primarily considering the Bay of Kotor's endangered ecosystem, what would be your first steps?
Ranka Vukasovic Botica: Well, precisely what we have just said, implementation of the regulations that have been passed. And that's the first; it's the simplest step. There is no investment in that. If all those stringent laws have been passed, fine tune them and move according to those adopted norms and implement them. For example, in this crisis, I know that many sailors are at home. Engage people, and everyone will give some suggestions.
That is the first thing; the second thing is the strategy of the Port of Kotor. Kotor now lives based on that, with what needs to be devised and with everyone that accompanies it.
Third, in Porto Montenegro and similar projects - how much money ends up in the city treasury? This is an essential aspect for the development of the city. Porto cannot be a city on its own without bringing some progress to the local population.