Shipyards in Croatia: the twilight of an industry

Cranes stop at the shipyard Uljanik in Croatia, on November 12, 2018 (Photo Denis LOVROVIC. AFP)

Such as miners and steelmakers, they formed a caste working respected part of the ex-communist Yugoslavia, but today they are struggling to be paid: shipyard workers croats live in the twilight of their industry.

On the shipyard Uljanik in Pula (in the north), the largest in the country, the cranes are frozen in silence. For nearly two months, hundreds of workers have spent most of the time on strike; some come from time to time, the other will stay at home. The bankruptcy threat, “the workers of Pula are hungry”, said the head of the strike committee, Boris Cerovac.

They have triggered the October 22, their third strike this year, as in January and August, because they had not received their salary. Since, they have seen that happen on account of small amount of random. And on Monday, they declared a pause in their movement of protest, to appease unhappy customers.

Write that their salary is officially slightly higher than the average national income (840 euros) no longer makes sense.

“It is bad, the wages are late, people go,” laments Orce Stojkovski, 48 years old, interviewed by the AFP in this port on the edge of the Adriatic. “We are approaching a time where there will be more than enough people to protest. Not to mention building of vessels, etc.”, adds Stojkovski that, on photographs of an event of August, means the finger at those who are gone.

Since January, about a quarter of 4.500 workers of Uljanik have left the company, most in search of work abroad.

In 2018, according to its website, Uljanik has registered the cancellation of at least nine orders, bulk carriers and cargo for vehicles, for customers canada and the Cayman islands. They have relied on the failure to (a) be delivered according to the agreed terms,” according to a company release.

– 0.6% of market –

It is far the time, in the era of yugoslavia, where the shipbuilding industry Croatian was the third in the world. Since the Second world War, his yards were the product of 1,150 ships civilian, cargo ships, and tankers.

At the end of the 1980s, it employed 21,000 people. There are more than 6,000 in the four great shipyards of the adriatic coast, Uljanik, but also 3-Shift (also owned by Uljanik), Brodosplit and Brodotrogir.

Croatia is today the 13th largest global order and does not represent more than 0.6% of the market of the shipyards, dominated to about 80% by China, south Korea and Japan.

The explosion of Yugoslavia is for many, followed by a painful transition and unfinished to the private sector, imposed by the european Union before the accession of Croatia to the EU in 2013.

In the opinion of analysts, the restructuring has not been sufficient to make it profitable this industry, particularly in the face of asian competition. Yet the State still owns 25% of Uljanik – workers hold 50% of the capital, has injected a total of four billion euros in the sector over the past few decades, according to the Institute of public finance. And just for Uljanik, it has provided bank guarantees to the tune of 500 million euros of loans.

– “Abandoning her child” –

The Croats have not sought to reconvert to time, as for other Europeans, in the wind turbines, oil platforms or vessels to high technology, according to the economic analyst Damir Novotny. And only the government subsidies are threatened by the european rules, have allowed this industry to maintain the head out of the water.

A new plan of rescue of Uljanik, with the participation of a local company, is in the study. The precedent has been rejected by Brussels because of a role is deemed to be excessive by the State.

A failure would sign without doubt “the end of the shipyards the Croatian in their entirety,” says the trade unionist Djino Sverko.

“We have no alternative, build ships is our tradition and this is the engine of other industries,” the local, ” he said. “Uljanik has 162 years, is sacred to us,” let him die the company because it is not cost-effective, “it would be like abandoning his child because he has the prominent ears”, he says.

In Croatia, tourism is often cited as the solution to economic problems. In fact, many workers survive by renting their apartment on the edge of the Adriatic…

But many believe that Croatia could build its economy on this sector, which already weighs to 20% of its wealth.

“You can’t imagine Pula without Uljanik. This is part of our identity and that of Istria”, said the mayor Boris Miletic.

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