Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Pelješac Bridge Brings New Tourism Boom: Komarna Comes to Life with Chinese Workers

The little seaside town of Komarna was thus far known as the popular weekend getaway of longtime politician Luka Bebić, and at the time of Yugoslavia, it was known as a resort town of Bosnian Herzegovinian strongmen and intellectuals. Today, however, the town has become the liveliest construction site in Croatia, as the biggest bridge in the country is constructed over the next three years, reports Slobodna Dalmacija on January 28, 2019. 

The town of Komarna was built in the seventies as a weekend resort. It has a little more than 170 registered residents today, about 50 in the winter, and in the summer up to two thousand with tourists. 

The town, however, is no stranger to the megaproject that is underway, which is worth 420 million euro, 85% of which is financed by the EU - the Pelješac Bridge. The renowned Chinese construction giant China Road and Bridge Corporation was commissioned for the project. 

Not only will this bridge pass through the Bay of Mali Ston, with one stop in Komarna and the other in Brijesta on Pelješac, but it will also connect Croatia after 303 years, the time that has passed since the Dubrovnik Republic handed over the territory of Neum to the Turkish Empire in 1718. 

The bridge will be 2.4 kilometers long and 55 meters tall, and it will carry four traffic lanes. The EU is also financing the supporting infrastructure needed, including access roads, tunnels, additional bridges and viaducts, and an 8-kilometer bypass at Ston.

Works have begun, construction sites on both sides of the bay are up, and foundations are being laid about one hundred meters below the sea surface. On the Komarna side, Chinese and Croatian engineers will be located in apartments, while on the Pelješac side, a container settlement will be erected for seven hundred Chinese workers. The area will transform into an actual city by the sea.

“We see them, they come through here, they were initially quiet, but now they send greetings. The main director knows how to say 'good day and goodbye’, and we, I’m afraid, are not even close to learning Chinese. And you know that there will be 700 Chinese cheering for Hajduk and singing 'Marjane, Marjane’,” said Mile Brljević (64) from Komarna, predicting that by the summer of 2021, when the works on the bridge will be completed, Komarna will be known as Zagreb, always on television and in newspapers.

“The engineers and workers who are directly involved in the project are located in Komarna, and from Opuzen to Ploče, we are renting rooms to Croatian and European controllers, observers, all those who have a job in supervision, so our restaurants and apartments will be full all winter and summer. It’s all great. There are engineers from Sarajevo, Belgrade, Zagreb, Split, and we are all together in the same place. The Chinese see the job and are interested in nothing else, and our Neretva firms have done the preparatory work, like setting up fences, asphalt, panels, so there was a job for everyone,” says Mile.

Ivo Jerković Bili is a 24-year-old who canceled all the announced tourists until 2021 and leased about 70 beds to engineers, translators, and logistics. The Chinese chefs even cook by him, as part of the office is located there. 

“The first came in July, two bosses and engineers, and then there were more and more… At present, there are about fifty Chinese and about the same amount of Croatian engineers. You can’t miss the seriousness the Chinese have for this job; they are looking for references, all paperwork and experience, they are not interested in anything done 'by a connection'. The chief director was here, very young, born in 1986 I think. Every boss has his boss, and statements and photographs or entry into the construction area are strictly forbidden without permission from the top. There is no chatting or breaks, and there is no chance that even a penny is missed on the account.

Most of the workers will come in April and sleep in the container village. I think that the people we rented to for the summer and had to cancel will not be upset, but God, there is really a lot of work,” explains Ivo, who will open a restaurant this summer - a Chinese restaurant.

“The main Chinese chef is a professional, the food he prepares is excellent, and I noticed that they use ginger in everything. If possible, I will ask him for help in opening the Chinese restaurant. And you know what was the strangest to me; this summer, apart from the thousands of guests we have from all over Europe, was the first time we had Chinese tourists. If this is a random coincidence, who knows. But, we will have a lively and cheerful atmosphere over these three years,” says Ivo Jerković.

To read more about the Pelješac Bridge, follow TCN’s dedicated page

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