Croatia ready to help shipyards, but wants long-term sustainable solution

ZAGREB, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) — Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Thursday that the government has a political will to help the troubled shipyard Uljanik, news agency HINA reported.
At the moment, Plenkovic told reporters, the most important issues are keeping the jobs in the shipyards as well as the functioning of the company.

Plenkovic visited on Thursday the Uljanik shipyard in Pula and met with the workers, members of unions and management board of the company. After the meeting, the government held a session in Pula.
“We are aware that maritime and shipbuilding in Croatia have a long tradition, how they connect our people, our economy, our cities, our culture, and identity not only to the sea but to the construction of ships,” Plenkovic said.

He stressed that in the late 80’s Croatia was the third biggest shipbuilding country in the world, while today it is in 9th place.
It is still a very important industrial sector in the country that shares two to five percent of Croatian employment, 0.8 to 1.8 percent of GDP and 10 to 15 percent of export.

Croatia’s largest shipbuilding group Uljanik is in financial problems with troubled waters ahead of it. In August, around 4,000 workers from its two shipyards, “Uljanik” in Pula and “3. Maj” in Rijeka, went on a strike over delayed wages.

Apart from the worst possible option which implies that no solution will be found, Plenkovic said on Thursday that there are two other scenarios — the current modified restructuring plan accepted by the European Commission or finding of some other strategic partner with new solutions.

“The government has provided guarantees so that workers could get their wages. The wages for August have started arriving in workers’ accounts. Therefore, we did what we promised,” said Plenkovic.
Economy Minister Darko Horvat said at a government session that the cost of all ships made in Croatia since its independence in 1991 was 115 billion kuna (18.1 billion U.S. dollars), while the income was 83 billion kuna (13 billion U.S. dollars).

Such a model is unsustainable, he said, arguing that shipyards in Pula and Rijeka need a new model of restructuring that will be sustainable in the long term for Croatian shipbuilding industry.

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