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Ongoing Luka Koper port investment drives position as major automotive hub

Operators of Slovenia’s strategically positioned Luka Koper port continue investing in the facility, which has positioned itself as a major European logistics hub for vehicle and automotive manufacturing supplies.

Work is expected to start before the end of 2024 on a 300-meter extension of Pier 1, which is the first phase in what the operators describe as a major development plan to prepare the port for a new era of growth.

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Sara Morato, Car and Ro-Ro Terminal Director at Luka Koper – Port of Koper, what contributed to the growth in car handling and container services during 2023.

Morato: We are a multipurpose port and automotive-related cargo is also handled in our container terminal.

This is usually in the form of components for supplying various production plants across Europe, or in some cases as recycled materials returning to production.

The segment of finished cars in containers experienced a huge increase last year as well.

Sara Morato, Car and Ro-Ro Terminal Director at Luka Koper – Port of Koper.

Other important segments are steel products, such as coils used in the automotive industry, which are handled on our general cargo terminal.

They are usually transported with conventional vessels and reloaded onto trucks and wagons or stuffed in containers.

The automotive supply chain is rather demanding from every aspect and requires careful planning with all entities involved, including forwarders, intermodal and truck operators, survey companies, and customs authorities.

AI: You handled close to a million cars in 2023 – do you have capacity for more?

Morato: With a handled volume of more than 900,000 cars and an extensive network of maritime connections, the port of Koper is one of the most important automotive logistics ports on the European stage.

We handle more than 45 different brands, both in the export and import segment, and also offer a range of additional services for the cars in our port.

Going forward, we wish to maintain our leading status, especially through investments in new facilities.

In the midterm we plan to build additional open space storage areas for around 7,000 cars in the eastern part of the port.

In the recently adopted strategic plan we included the extension of the garage for additional 11,600 units.

In Basin no. 3 we plan to build a dedicated berth for car-carriers.

All investments will be executed in phases during the next 2 – 4 years.

AI: How has the Red Sea attacks affected your operations?

Morato: We closely monitor the situation in the Red Sea and regularly communicate with shipowners.

In terms of certain shipping services originating in the Far East, there is a delay in ship arrivals due to a longer transit time, from 10 to 14 days on average.

These delays have a knock-on effect on ships carrying cargo across the Mediterranean via hub ports.

Despite the circumstances, Luka Koper remains a reliable link in the logistics chain, capable of swiftly adapting our services even in these uncertain times.

AI: Will the Pier 1 expansion benefit the auto industry?

Morato: Definitely. The expansion of the Container terminal will bring up the annual capacity to 1.75 TEU, bringing new opportunities for supplying production plants in our hinterland.

We are also expecting the new 27 km railway line from Koper to be completed in 2026, which will give an additional boost to the port’s capacity.

AI: Do you have any plans for further expansion of your vehicle handling and storage facilities?

Morato: In the next four years we plan to set up additional open storage areas with around 7.000 parking lots. The garage will be expanded to accommodate a total of 22.000 units.

We plan to also build a Ro-Ro berth in Basin no. 3.

Aerial view of the Koper Car Terminal.

For the long term we still have vast areas to be exploited on the eastern part of the port.

Parallel to infrastructure we are also making steps forward on paperless procedures and digitalization, especially what concerns integration and connectivity with customers.

AI:  Where do you see future business potential?

Morato: Our traditional markets were always Europe, the Mediterranean and the Far East.

But as the carmakers are expanding or setting up new ambitious productions in East Europe, we see the possibility to also support cargo flows going to the USA, in particular to the East Coast.

Introducing Sara Morato

Sara Morato is a Master of Science in Transport. She started her career in 2001 within a logistic company Intereuropa, d.d., first in operational and sales department, then as a Project Manager for combined transport in the daughter company Intereuropa Transport d.o.o. and at the end as a Head of Sales Department in the same company.

In 2010 she joined Luka Koper, d.d. as a Head of Sales and Marketing Department, today she manages the Car and Ro-Ro Terminal.

She has over 20 years of work experience in the field of transport and logistics with skills in communication, sales, organization, planning and optimization of processes.

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