The Adriatic Sea is a water body lying between Italy’s eastern coast and the western shores of the Balkan Peninsula.
The Adriatic region is a key maritime trade hub in the world, given its strategic location amidst Europe and Asia. It has a long trading history, going back to the ancient period when much of the region was controlled by the Roman Empire.
Presently, the Adriatic has more than 70 seaports and serves as a trade gateway between Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Major exports of the Adriatic seaports include textiles, machines, and vehicles, while imports comprise natural gas, petroleum, and machinery.
The seaports are well-equipped and some of the most beautiful in the world, with the Port of Trieste being the biggest and most popular.
The region also has numerous free trade zones and industrial parks that offer many incentives to companies, such as tax breaks and smooth customs processes. These efforts have led many businesses to operate from the region and opened new markets.
In this article, let us explore the 10 major ports of the Adriatic.
1. Port of Trieste, Italy
The Trieste Port lies on the northeastern coast of Italy, in the Gulf of Trieste. It is the most important and largest Adriatic port handling approximately 3,780 vessels, 44,400,100 tonnes of cargo, 394,000 TEUs and 113,750 passengers annually.
It is an important centre of trade between Central Europe and the Mediterranean and also with Asia and the Far East. The major exports include timber products, machines, iron and steel, grains, fruits, sugar, paper, cement etc., while imports comprise coal, cotton, packaged food, mineral oil etc.
Trieste is divided into five zones, which handle commercial and industrial activities. The port has a total quayage of 12,128 m and 47 operational berths.
There are many specialised terminals, too, with the major one being the Trieste container terminal, with a 1.2 million TEUs capacity, operated by MSC.
The Molo VII and San Marco Petroli terminals handle bulk cargo, especially petroleum products and chemicals, refined oil and crude. The RORO terminal handles cars, trucks and trailers.
Also, there are many berths dedicated to yachts and pleasure crafts; however, most of them opt for the small marina San Giusto which is in Porto Vecchio.
2. Port of Koper, Slovenia
Koper lies in the northeastern part of the Adriatic Sea. It is Slovenia’s biggest container facility and the main entry point for goods. It has a well-sheltered harbour which enables safe berthing for vessels.
It has numerous terminals, including the container terminal, capable of dealing with 945,000 TEUs annually. It also has a fruit terminal, which also functions as a general cargo terminal for some months, a liquid cargo terminal, a facility for handling grains and animal feed, a livestock handling area, dry bulk and minerals terminal and an energy terminal that deals with iron ore and coal.
Around 2230 ships and 16,000,000 tonnes of cargo are handled at the port annually.
Port of Koper was once a tiny Roman Settlement named Capris. The modern port was established in 1957 when the first berth was built to handle cargo. Over the years, the port was refurbished, and today it is a leading facility in the Adriatic.
3. Port of Bar, Montenegro
Bar is a coastal town in Montenegro with a port which functions as the country’s key transportation and shipping centre. Bar is the largest seaport in Montenegro, located on the southeastern end of Barsko Sidriste on the Adriatic coast.
It deals with varied cargo, including oil and coal and passengers with ferries linking the port to regions like Bari and Ancona in Italy. It also has a marine for yachts and smaller passenger vessels. It is a popular destination, and many visitors come here to enjoy the scenic beaches, restaurants and culture.
Coming back to the port, it is the principal commercial harbour of the country and handles grains, petroleum and its derivatives, RORO, containers and chemicals on its deep water berths. It takes about 2,000,000 to 2,500,000 tonnes of cargo every year.
Before its conquest by the Turks in 1571, the Bar seaport was used for handling cargo from Shkoder, a city now in Albania. After the conquest, the Turks built a tiny port facility with a breakwater and a wooden pier. Since 1878, the erstwhile Turkish port was expanded and refurbished.
Finally, Montenegro gained control of the seaport after it became independent from Ottoman Turkey. It also emerged as the 1st South Slavic State to have a port.
4. Port of Zadar, Croatia
Zadar Seaport is on a peninsula located in the northern region of the Adriatic Coast. It has two areas, namely the Luka Zadar, a natural inlet between the mainland and a nearby peninsula which houses the town of Zadar. This area primarily handles coasters, passenger traffic, cruise ships etc.
Luka Gazenica is a deepwater port area that deals with dry and liquid cargo. It also receives timber shipments, grains, machines, fuels, chemicals and soya beans and exports PVC and petrochemicals.
About 550,000 tonnes of cargo and around 200 ships are handled here annually.
The port has six berths that handle liquid cargo, oil, dry bulk, fruit transhipments, general cargo and RORO. Zadar was once a Roman seaport, and today it is a commercially viable facility with ferry links to nearby islands. It has undergone upgrades to accommodate bigger vessels and has the latest technology and equipment, which makes it a valuable asset for Croatia.
5. Port of Durres, Albania
Durres is the principal port of Albania, lying about 120 nautical miles east of Bari, Italy. It has 2 breakwaters that shelter the 10 berths. The port is accessible through a 120 m wide channel with a 9.5 m depth.
The largest port in Albania handles around 603,000 tonnes of cargo and over 750,000 passengers annually.
It has many terminals as well, with the major ones being the container terminal, having a total capacity of 250,000 TEUs, a RORO terminal, a Bulk terminal, an Oil terminal and a Passenger terminal, providing regular ferry connections to Ancona, Trieste and Bari.
The port is crucial for the Albanian economy and enables it to trade with European countries and beyond. Its strategic location also makes it an important regional shipping hub.
6. Port of Neum, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Neum is a tiny coastal town in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It has a port on the Adriatic Sea coastline, mainly used for shipping and trade. Founded during the Roman Empire, the port has been expanded and upgraded recently.
Apart from handling grains, sugar, food items, petroleum products, cement and other construction materials, consumer goods and vehicles, the port is also a famous tourist destination.
People visit it for its stunning beaches and beautiful landscapes. People can enjoy swimming, sunbathing and water sports on the calm and clear waters of the Adriatic and explore the historic town and its historical architecture.
The port has several berths for accommodating cargo ships, tankers and passenger ferries.
7. Port of Venice, Italy
Venice is a natural port which is well-sheltered within a lagoon. It spans 20,450,000 square kilometres, has 30,000 m of berthing area and has 163 operational berths. It also has 27 port terminals and 205 km of internal railroad within the port premises.
Diverse cargo is handled at the port’s different terminals, most of which are operated by private parties. One group of commodities handled include food, mainly cereals and flour, followed by energy products like anthracite, coke, coal, bulk cargoes like cement, clay, salt, gypsum, steel items, pig iron, vehicles etc.
The Multi-purpose Intermodal Terminal Venezia SpA specialises in dealing with mixed load, marble, containerised cargo and project cargoes.
Terminal Venice Porto Marghera handles roll-on/roll-off cargoes, while Terminal 117 is the main cruise terminal.
Terminal 123 is for accommodating ferries and RORO travelling between the port and Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean region.
Approximately 4,150 vessels, 26,400,000 tonnes of cargo, 300,000 TEUs and 2,400,000 passengers pass through the port annually.
8. Port of Rijeka, Croatia
Rijeka is a Croatian port situated on the shores of Kvarner Gulf in the Adriatic Sea. The first written records about a port on this coast date to 1281. This was once the main seaport of the Hungarian Kingdom in the 19th century and also a vital port during the Second World War.
Presently, it is the biggest port in Croatia, with a cargo throughput of approximately 13. 6 million tonnes. It mostly handles oil, bulk, general cargo and containers. Other cargo includes ore, grains, phosphate, timber and refined petroleum products.
The port is well-protected by two breakwaters and has a safe anchorage area. It has 39 berths that accommodate bulk carriers, general cargo vessels, RORO vessels, passenger ships and container carriers.
9. Port of Ancona, Italy
Ancona is located on the Adriatic coast of Italy, between Venice in the north and Bari in the south. Ancona has more than 6 kilometres of quays with a depth of up to 15 m. It also has 25 piers, around 20 km of rail tracks, 16 yards, and two dry docks. It is an ideal multifunctional port that serves the east-central region of Italy.
It spans 1.4 million square metres and is divided into several terminals for accommodating passengers, containers, solid bulk etc. The port has international ferry connections to nearby countries of Greece, Albania and Croatia.
Major commodities handled at the port include timber, logs, wood pulp, clay, steel coils, iron scraps, coal, grains, cement, trailers, and vegetable oil.
Around 8, 500,000 tonnes of cargo, 110,400 TEUs and 1,655,000 passengers are handled at the port annually.
10. Port of Zelenika, Montenegro
Zelenika is a seaport situated close to Herceg Novi town in Montenegro. It is a commercial and military facility that deals with cargo ships and naval vessels. It also has a ferry terminal for passengers going to Croatia and Italy.
Operated by the Montenegrin Navy, the port handles food, fuel and raw materials. It also serves as a naval base and has facilities for repairing and maintaining ships and submarines.
It is also a key transportation hub on the Adriatic Highway, which links Montenegro with Croatia and Albania.
Zelenika has an oil terminal which deals with crude oil, refined petroleum products and other liquid bulk. It has many storage tanks, pipelines and loading/unloading facilities.
The port also has a fishing terminal which local fishermen use for unloading their catches.
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Zahra is an alumna of Miranda House, University of Delhi. She is an avid writer, possessing immaculate research and editing skills. Author of several academic papers, she has also worked as a freelance writer, producing many technical, creative and marketing pieces. A true aesthete at heart, she loves books a little more than anything else.