Pelješac Bridge Construction to Begin Soon, Without Workers?

Lauren Simmonds

Will the much anticipated bridge ever be built or is the entire thing just cursed?

It almost feels like one of those mythical tales you tell the kids about before bedtime – Pelješac Bridge, the legend.

The talk about the construction of the bridge, how important the bridge is and will be, how significant it is to connect Croatian territory and now European Union territory and just how much certain individuals and groups in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina are against the entire idea of it has been going on for what often feels like an eternity. 

In spite of that, and in spite of all the constant talk and arguing, the funds for the construction have finally been secured, with the European Union funding a huge part of it, Oleg Butković has made several hope giving statements about it finally coming to its realisation, tenders have been held, and the complaints about a Chinese construction company getting the job have rolled in. It seemed that we were finally getting somewhere, but we should have known better than to have just accepted that and allow ourselves to dream of not having to go through Neum and its border crossings (Bosnia and Herzegovina) when travelling between the extreme south of Dalmatia and the rest of Croatia by car.

It seems that there are no workers, or at least, nobody from Croatia has shown any particular desire to work on the construction of the monumental bridge, a strategic national project and undoubtedly the most significant in a great many years. 

As Dubrovacki Vjesnik writes on the 26th of June, 2018, the contractor of the future Pelješac Bridge, the China Road and Bridge Corporation, announced in early June the need for eleven construction workers, mostly highly educated engineers. This is, in fact, the first actual concrete step towards the beginning of works on the construction site of Pelješac Bridge in Komarna and Brijesta. Are there any construction workers in southern Croatia for this, otherwise the first tender on the Pelješac Bridge construction site? Unofficially, it seems that there aren’t, according to a report from Jutarnji list, and worryingly still, Minister Oleg Butković announced yesterday that construction works are set to begin in just twenty or so days.

There appears to not be a single civil engineer on ”the market” in Dubrovnik-Neretva County, which doesn’t necessarily mean that at this stage the Chinese will fail to find the desired workers if they’re attracted by good salaries and incentives. It is possible that several construction experts will come from the continent, from neighbouring countries, and even all the way from China itself.

In this case, the owners of facilities in and around the Neretva Valley and in nearby Neum will see a chance in the fact that the most likely huge number of workers who will come to work on the bridge will need somewhere to stay. Supposedly, the Chinese were interested in some of the empty buildings in Opuzen and the surrounding areas.

Still, as things stand, a bridge that will connect the extreme south of Croatia to the rest of the country will be built by workers from neighbouring and surrounding countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia, as there are currently several thousand of the much needed building engineers for this type of work missing in Croatia, as has been highlighted by data of the Croatian Construction Trade Union.

For 2018, the construction sector received 9,000 labour force import licenses, which haven’t yet been used, so foreign workers for the Komarna building site could also be found via this quota.

When cafes, bars and restaurants are struggling to get the staff for the season, there’s a problem. When the contractors of the most significant construction project in the history of independent Croatia can’t find workers, there’s an epidemic.


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