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Plant shortage hampers reconstruction

SERBIA DOES not have enough plant to tackle urgent reconstruction work, it was claimed this week.

An estimated 90% of all heavy construction equipment is out of action due to mechanical failure. Daily breakdown rates of up to 20% have been recorded in the public transport sector and experts say figures for the construction industry are little better.

There is also an acute shortage of specialised equipment.

'For reconstruction work or new development there is nothing like enough equipment, ' said Alexander Kovacevic, a consulting engineer drawing up a list of priority reconstruction projects for the United Nations organisation for the co-ordination of humanitarian relief.

Kovacevic claimed there was just one crane in Serbia with more than 120t lifting capacity.

There are no large floating cranes.

Removal of the wreckage of three bridges at Novi Sad, destroyed during Nato air strikes and now blocking the River Danube, is considered to be Serbia's single most important reconstruction project. Navigation is key to the country's economy, and transport of fuel and food is vital to the wellbeing of thousands.

An estimated 650t of reinforced concrete is lying on the river bed where Novi Sad's combined road and rail bridge was destroyed. There are fears that the debris will catch ice flowing down the Danube this winter forming a temporary dam and flooding the city.

The debris has also altered the river flow. Increased scour is undermining the quayside of Novi Sad port.

But it will not be possible to tackle the work until specialist underwater cutting, breaking and lifting equipment can be brought in.

It is thought the Danube will not be reopened until later next year at the earliest.

Head of the Department for Trade & Industry's commercial section in Belgrade Dusko Sokic said the country's plant manufacturing industry 'is virtually dead'.

He was uncertain there was enough equipment to do the work immediately required, including repair of refineries, electricity generating stations, railways, roads and ports.

Longer term, Sokic said Serbian companies would be forced to look to Western partners to provide finance for equipment.

Providing political reform continues it is expected that local contractors will start looking to form joint ventures with firms from abroad.

Development of the country's transport, energy and water supply infrastructures will take place through concession agreements, Sokic predicted.

'What's needed in the way of plant will have to be worked as part of each contract, ' he said.

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