BELGRADE, Nov 23 (Reuters) - The European Investment Bank (EIB) on Friday agreed to lend Serbia 100 million euros ($113.44 million) to help it improve navigation along the Danube and Sava rivers, allowing more goods to be transported by water rather than road.
The project, which will cost almost 205 million euros in total, is part of a wider European inland waterways project — also including the Rhine, Meuse and Main rivers — which aims to boost shipping across the continent.
Waterway transport in Serbia has been growing by 10 percent a year since 2010 and the investment will be the largest to date in the sector.
The loan agreement for the project is the first signed by the EIB outside of the European Union. Serbia and the EU, which the Balkan country aspires to join, will provide the rest of the funds.
As part of the project, a bulk cargo terminal will be built at the Port of Smederevo, a network of hydro-meteorological stations will be placed along the two rivers, river locks will be renovated and German ship wrecks dating back to World War Two will be removed from the Danube.
“New, shorter and better waterways will help goods produced in Serbia reach customers in Europe more easily, faster and cheaply, which will further affect the competitiveness of the Serbian economy,” said the country’s Finance Minister Sinisa Mali. ($1 = 0.8815 euros) (Reporting by Maja Zuvela; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)