Defining Leadership. Bunkering in NIS.

Bunkering activity is becoming an increasingly predominant form of business, encouraging intense traffic on the Danube River. Until recently, ships that have been passing through Serbia had almost nowhere to fill the tanks with fuel. Although under the original business plan, the products at the forefront of corporate operations are undoubtedly intended for the road transport, the portfolio of the Petroleum Industry of Serbia includes fuel supply on the major river routes as well.

The total capacity of the NIS bunker stations is currently 5.622 t of euro diesel, which ensures a constant availability and secure supply to our customers at every moment.

From the historical perspective, the river Danube has always had strategic significance for Serbia. Hydrologically speaking, Serbia holds a great potential for improving bunker station networks, the potential that can match significantly more advanced countries in the Old Continent. This position is extremely favourable for vessel supply especially those sailing from Regensburg to Constance and vice versa.

Danube bunker stations

As the dominant navigational route providing Serbia with 588 km of middle course, allowing navigation and multimode transport, the Danube also represents a significant pan-European Corridor VII and the strategic link with Europe and Eurasia which should encourage the development of trade, tourism and service support, especially because the river transport is one of the cheapest. As it flows through ten states, from its source in Germany all the way to its outlet into the Black Sea, there are numerous bunker stations set up at the distance of 2,888 km.  In terms of significance and the quality of services they provide, the ports falling under the category of the distinguished ones comprise the Port Rousse, Bulgaria, and Budapest on the territory of Hungary (1640 km).  In Slovakia we will certainly mention Bratislava, providing complete bunkering service at the distance of 1,866 km, whereas in Germany we would certainly single out Passau (2228.38 -2233.45) and Regensburg (2373.00-2379.00 km).  In Austria there are five points:  Linz (2,128 km), Enns (2,112 km), Korneuburg (1,942 km), and Vienna (1,920 & 1,929 km).  Ukraine is distinguishable by 61.  Mile, and as far as the Republic of Croatia is concerned, there is currently one bunker station, Nautica Vukovar (1335+500 km), synonymous with the town it is located in, providing  fuel and lubricant supply services since 1999.

In accordance with the development strategy, two years ago NIS launched a new business- ship bunkering, i.e. supplying domestic and foreign vessels with the superb quality EURO Diesel.  In this way, the Petroleum Industry of Serbia guarantees a reliable fuel supply on the important waterways in the country to all interested shipping companies.  Considering the fact that the demands of domestic shipping companies, as well as foreign fleets in transit are estimated at approximately 40,000 tonnes per year, the Bunkering Sector promotes a development plan implying the expansion of the existing network.  Since, taking into account current and projected needs of the domestic fleet, coupled with all the other international lines available, the necessity for the expansion of the existing facilities is imperative. Current facilities include three modern, fully equipped bunker stations, positioned to extremely favourable strategic locations on the Danube – in Novi Sad, Veliko Gradište, and since recently in Prahovo.

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Mihajlo M. Đurovic, Director of the Bunkering Sector operating within NIS j.s.c., states that the company’s top competitors tend to be Vienna, Rousse and 61.  Mile (near the Port of Reni in Ukraine) bunker stations.

The total capacity of the Novi Sad bunker station amounts to 2,000 tons, and the one in Veliko Gradište to 1,280 tons.  The latest in a series is the Prahovo bunker station with the total capacity of 2,342 tons.  Namely, a significant capacity of the bunker stations ensures a great stability in supply, guaranteeing an exceptionally high level of reserves and the possibility of providing services without any delays.

Back To Where It All Started

Mihajlo M. Đurovic says that every beginning is hard, and so was the beginning of the bunker supply project in the territory of the Republic of Serbia, which, according to him, was expected after all.

-Namely, NIS j.s.c. used to supply vessels with fuel at several installations, but these operations were put to an end after the NATO bombing in 1999 due to the significant destruction suffered by many facilities. After the company’s acquisition by Gazprom Neft, the logical step to follow was to re-activate the bunkering operations among the rest. Also, I have to add that the major problem we encountered was the lack of legal regulations in place which would regulate this activity and significantly shorten the implementation of many projects.  In December 2013, the adoption of the Act by the Government of Serbia followed, governing vessel fuel supply in the technical sense.  Elaboration of this regulation was supported by our experts with an international experience, making thus the use of the experience of the Danube River Basin District countries in particular, such as Germany and Austria – says Đurovic.

Two years following the official commissioning of the first bunker station in Novi Sad, visits and sales reported a growing trend.

Should we compare the first four months of 2014 to the same period of 2013, the results would reflect an evident 15 per cent increase in the sales – emphasizes Mihajlo M. Đurovic.  – Also, when it comes to commercial fleet, which constitutes the greatest customer segment, we can say that, compared to 2013, recording the total number of 883 vessels calling at the station for fuel supply, these figures are expected to rise. The 2014 Calendar Year End is expected to record more than 1,000 registered bunker operations.  As far as the domestic/foreign fleet ratio is concerned, as expected , the overseas transit fleet seems to prevail 70 – 30- as stated by Nikola Bogicevic, Expert Sales Co-ordinator, Bunkering Sector.

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For customers in the transit fleet, supplied through customs warehouses, fuels are less costly for the amount of VAT and excise duties, in accordance with the applicable legal regulations of the Republic of Serbia in place. In other countries of the Danube River Basin District, there is a VAT burden imposed on fuel, even though they get the VAT refund indeed, as a result of refraction proceedings, but it is a time consuming and often expensive process.

Prevention ecology

All bunker stations have been granted permissions by the competent authorities, primarily Decisions issued by the MOI as a documentary evidence of compliance with the fire safety technical requirements, as well as regular inspections conducted by the competent authorities.

In particular, when it comes to the oil spill protection, all our bunker stations possess adequate protective barriers, equipped with special absorbents for collection of potential spills, and special “Euro-couplings” for spill-free and safe fluid handling, the so-called “drybreak loading” preventing spillage during loading. Also, there is an additional automatic shut-off system to prevent potential overflow of a shipping tank.  As far as the fire safety is concerned, our bunker stations have both mobile and stationary systems equipped with fire safety systems with manual and automatic remote controlled water cannons.  These systems are subject to regular inspections and functionality checks – specifies Đurovic.

Nikola Bogicevic, Bunkering Sector NIS j.s.c. says that bunker stations operated by the Company employ highly trained personnel, i.e. the crew, which represents the key and one of the most efficient protection from any environmental threat owing to the strict procedures.

Plans and prospects

In the forthcoming period, as explained by Đurovic, the commissioning of the Smederevo bunker station is scheduled, which will exclusively be intended for domestic fleet operating in the territory of the Republic of Serbia.  – This bunker station is expected to launch its formal operations during the upcoming summer season. As far as the Bezdan installation is concerned, currently it is in its reconstruction phase, whereas the ongoing works should be completed by the end of the year- Đurovic concluded.

Ljubinko Savic, an Independent Expert on Energy Issues from the Serbian Chamber of Commerce states that a bunker station does not need to be only a place to fill up the ship tank, moreover, it can be a perfect rest area offering minor servicing in addition.   – One of the emerging opportunities to recognize and act on under this development strategy is the construction of the LNG (liquefied natural gas) vessel supply stations servicing the ports to be included in the TETN (Trans European Transport Network) system.  The construction of LNG stations is envisaged under the proposal of the new EU Directive governing alternative fuels infrastructure across the EU.  The Danube River is certainly a part of the TETN system, with Belgrade and Novi Sad marked as so-called “nodes” intended for future network of intermodal transport system – clarifies Savic.

-There is also room for improvement seen in taking a position in the market of providing fuelling services for the so-called “White fleet”, the popular river cruisers which can be seen on the Sava Port..  Around 530 cruisers dock at the Belgrade Port during the season, which lasts for approximately seven months.  We have already undertaken certain activities aimed at implementation of this project – highlights Đurovic.

Also, the Petroleum Industry of Serbia shall attempt to expand the scope of its activities and introduce providing fuelling services for Sports & Recreation fleet in the forthcoming period.  If we take Belgrade as an example, which is positioned on two rivers and features a large number of small vessels berthed at the growing number of marinas, and at the same time take into account the fact that there is no station to provide fuelling services, it is clear that it is more than necessary to regulate this area in a safe and environmentally friendly manner, concludes Bogicevic , Bunkering Sector, NIS j.s.c.


This article was published in the 3rd issue of corporate magazine Energize.

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