How Jadrolinija is looking to the future

Jadrolinija’s David Sopta tells Justin Merrigan how Croatia’s national ferry line is steering a steady course

How Jadrolinija is looking to the future
“We are certain that we will navigate out of this crisis successfully,” says David Sopta

Jadrolinija is a vital ferry link connecting major centres along the Croatian coast and most of the county’s islands with the mainland. It also operates several international routes linking the country to Italy. Although no operator could have been fully prepared for the crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Jadrolinija has coped with this extremely difficult period with great success. This is largely thanks to its flexibility and adherence to measures prescribed by the National Civil Protection Headquarters of the Republic of Croatia.

Consequently, despite the disruption brought by Covid-19, CEO David Sopta maintains a positive outlook and says that when it comes to plans and hopes for the future, Jadrolinija’s main business mission remains the restoration of its fleet. “Before the pandemic we made some significant investments into the fleet, which was possible thanks to successful financial results from record-breaking seasons of the previous three years.”

Car ferry Ugljan joined the fleet in July, while Faros made its first voyage as a member of Jadrolinija’s fleet in August. Another new member of the fleet, car ferry Lošinj, is due to debut soon. “We are certain that we will navigate out of this crisis successfully, and when the financial situation becomes more favourable, we will be able to continue investing in our fleet,” says Sopta.

This goal will be greatly assisted by recent easing of travel restrictions. In March and April, when travelling restrictions were in force, Jadrolinija remained the vital lifeline for the islands, transporting basic necessities and medical supplies, as well as daily commuters.

“Our goal, apart from preserving the health of our employees and passengers, is to ensure operational business continuity, as well as financial stability and liquidity,” says Sopta. “To achieve this, we implemented a reduced business plan and postponed all activities that were not essential to the basic operations of the company.”

However, restrictions were eased for summer and Jadrolinija has begun to increase the number of voyages in its sailing schedules. “Even with the gradual normalisation of our sailing schedules and increasing numbers of passengers, our prime concern is still taking care of the health of our employees and passengers and ensuring safe travel,” says Sopta. “By June and July, we were witnessing an increase in the number of passengers and tourists travelling to the islands. Still, this number is much smaller when compared to our previous seasons, but it gives us hope. We also hope that the coronavirus pandemic will decrease and that with time, everyone will be able to travel without restrictions and fear. Until then, we have to get used to the ‘new normal’, remain responsible and follow the rules.”

He adds: “The greatest challenge of this crisis was, naturally, reduced traffic and decreased financial income. In the first six months of 2020, our fleet transported 52 per cent of passengers and 62 per cent of vehicles in comparison to the same period last year.”

Now a welcome initiative has been designed to make it easier for tourists to enjoy all that Croatia has to offer. Jadrolinija has joined forces with Croatia’s flag carrier Croatia Airlines to offer passengers the chance to buy one combined ticket for air and sea travel between European airports and Croatian island destinations. Sopta says the agreement brings the Croatian islands closer to passengers coming to Croatia by plane. “The number of passengers transported by Jadrolinija’s ships, which amounted to a record 12.5 million, certainly has great potential for both companies in terms of offering new voyages. We believe that the partnership will contribute to successful business results for both parties.

“We need to remain responsible and think of better days ahead, which will bring the biggest reward for all of our efforts – full ships and smiles on the faces of our loyal passengers.”

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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Justin Merrigan
By Justin Merrigan
20 November 2020

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