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24 April 2018

Legal battle for Croatia’s Peljeski Bridge contract continues

First published24/04/2018

Only days after Croatia rejected initial complaints, contractors Astaldi, Ictas and Strabag said that they will submit new complaints over the Peljeski bridge winning bid.

Croatian media report that Turkey's Ictas, Italy's Astaldi and the Austrian company Strabag are planning to submit a new complaint to the Croatian High Court against a decision by the state procurement authority DKOM to reject their previous complaints.

At issue is the awarding of the Peljeski bridge and access roads project to the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC).

Daily newspaper Jutarnji List wrote that Astaldi and Ictas will submit complaints separately. Meanwhile, Strabag will request temporary measures that will prevent the signing of contract agreement between the Croatian roads company Hrvatske Ceste and the CRBC.

Media suggest that if the High Court decides there is a basis for the complaints, project works could be delayed by a further four months up to two years. In that case, financial support for the bridge could be jeopardised.

Bids for construction of the four-lane 2.4km bridge were submitted in the middle of last year. The bridge will connect Croatian territory by traversing the Adriatic Sea’s Mali Ston Bay. Vehicles must currently head from Croatia into Bosnia to re-enter a peninsula that is Croatian territory.

The Turkish and Italian consortium tendered bids around €343 million Strabag offered around €349 million. But China Road and Bridges Corporation came in at around €208 million.

Last month DKOM said there were no grounds for retendering the contract. DKOM said there was no violation of procurement rules by the successful bidder, China Road and Bridge, and that no issues related to the bidding price.

DKOM also noted that any issues over bidders submitting unsustainably low prices in order to win work was an issue for the European Commission that handle complaints over dumping pricing.

While the bridge will be good for the economy of the Croatian area, Bosnia and Herzegovina has in the past requested that Croatia pause procurement for the project pending discussions between the two countries over the design.

Bosnia’s concern is that the largest ocean-going ships should have access up Ston Bay to Bosnia’s only sea port, Neum, should the Bosnian government decide to upgrade the terminals there.

Discussions have resulted in Croatia accepting design changes – and added costs - suggested by Bosnia, including an increase of bridge's height from 35m to 55m and spacing bridge supports at least 200m apart.

Project completion was originally set for 2022.

In June, the European Commission approved €357 million of the European Union’s Cohesion Policy funds to build the bridge – around 85% of the project’s cost. The European Union is also funding supporting infrastructure, such as access roads, including tunnels, bridges and viaducts, the building of an 8km bypass near the town of Ston and upgrading works on the existing road D414.

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