Croatia's state-owned road management company Hrvatske Ceste (HC) and the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) officially signed on Monday the handover of project documents for the construction of the Peljesac Bridge.
This formally marks the kick off of the construction project, HC CEO Josip Skoric said at the ceremony in the town of Ston on the Peljesac peninsula in southern Croatia.
"We have been waiting for a long time for the works to start, and a huge amount of paperwork has been done. Today marks the official start of the deadline for the Chinese contractors. We have notified the contractors about everything expected of them, both in terms of work performance and administration, so that we would not be subject to any corrections by the European Union," Skoric said.
He said that construction machinery should be in place by the end of August.
Senior official at the Transport Ministry, Tomislav Mihotic, said that it was in Croatia's interest that as many Croatian sub-contractors as possible were involved in the construction.
"I hope we will succeed in that, in preparatory works on the construction site. Apart from the Peljesac Bridge, the construction of the road connecting the city of Dubrovnik and its airport is also an important project. We are looking for the best route, as that would be the second major project of importance for the Dubrovnik area, and particularly for the city airport whose passenger turnover is fast approaching three million passengers," Mihotic said.
He added that although the Peljesac Bridge project still remains an open issue with the authorities of neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, none of that country's officials demanded that the project be halted at a meeting about the project held 10 days ago.
Media in Bosnia and Herzegovina have said that the Bosniak chairman of the country's tripartite presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, might resort to filing a lawsuit against Croatia with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg.
Predominantly Bosniak political parties are against the construction of the Peljesac Bridge because they believe it might prevent large vessels from entering Bosnia's Bay of Neum, and threaten Bosnia and Herzegovina's access to open sea.
The Peljesac Bridge is intended to connect the Croatian mainland and the Peljesac peninsula, in order to bypass the 15-kilometre-long coastal strip around the town of Neum that belongs to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and is Bosnia's only access to the Adriatic sea. The bridge aims to improve road traffic links between the Dubrovnik area and the rest of the country by circumventing customs and border controls around Neum.
In April this year, HC and CRBC signed a contract for the construction of the bridge and access roads, after CRBC's bid, worth 2.08 billion kuna (€281 million) excluding VAT, had been selected in a public tender. The entire project is worth €420 million without VAT, with the EU funding 85 percent of the total cost, or €357 million.
The bridge will be 2.4 kilometres long and 55 metres high. It should be built in 36 months starting from today.