Nick ThorpeDanube blocked by sailors' protest
Friday, 8 September, 2000
Budapest - In Romania, shipping companies have blocked the Danube river in protest at the failure of the Yugoslav authorities to clear the waterway of bomb damage, and at their own government's failure to provide compensation.
The sailors are angry at the loss of millions of dollars in trade and thousands of jobs because of the closure of the Danube.
Since Friday morning, 10 barges and five tugs have blocked the Danube near the port of Calarasi, the first point on the Danube where both banks of the river are on Romanian territory.
Only passenger ships and those flying the Romanian flag are being allowed to pass.
A similar protest last September ended when the government promised to consider the shiping firms' request for compensation.
But the organisers now claim that the promises have not been met.
The shipping companies are also trying to draw international attention to their plight - US$150m in lost trade since the Danube was closed to shipping last April.
Work to rebuild the bombed bridges and clear the waterway in the northern Yugoslav city of Novi Sad has started, but a temporary pontoon bridge in the city also prevents the passenger boats passing.
The Romanians also say that the Yugoslav authorities allow ships of friendly nations, like Russia and Ukraine, to use an old side canal to by-pass the damaged stretch of the river.
They say their blockade, initially announced for three days, could be prolonged indefinitely if the Romanian authorities do not give in to their demands for compensation.