Strabag challenges award of Croatian bridge to Chinese group

Austrian contractor Strabag has lodged a complaint to the Croatian government for awarding the contract to build the 2.4-km-long Peljesac bridge to a Chinese consortium, saying its bid was "unusually cheap".

On 12 January Croatia chose the Chinese group, which had bid 2.6bn Croatian kuna, around $431m, over a Strabag-led consortium that bid 3.28bn kuna, roughly $544m.

The Chinese bid also beat a joint venture between Italy’s Astaldi and IC Ictas of Turkey, which bid 3.19bn kuna, roughly $529m, local media reported (all bid prices include VAT).

The Chinese consortium, which includes China Road & Bridge Corp., CCCC Highway Consultants Co Ltd and CCCC Second Harbour Engineering Co Ltd, said it would complete the project in 36 months.

Strabag said yesterday it had filed a complaint with Croatia’s state commission for public procurement, citing procurement law of the European Union (EU), which is funding the bridge.

Connecting the Peljesac peninsula to the Croatian mainland, boosting tourism and allowing motorists to avoid a lengthy detour through Bosnia, the bridge is a project of major national significance for the Balkan country, which joined the EU in 2013.

"We claim that certain items in the (Chinese) bid are unusually cheap. We emphasise the authority’s obligation to question unusually low prices according to the European Union law on public procurement," Strabag told Reuters.

The Astaldi consortium had also complained, said Reuters, citing Croatia’s daily Novi List.

The EU is funding 85% of the project, with Croatia providing the rest.

Commenting on Strabag’s complaint, China’s state news agency Xinhua said: "The appeal will inevitably extend the public competition procedure and postpone the signing of the contract and the start of the bridge construction, which is expected during the spring of this year."

Image: A rendering of the completed project (Croatian Roads)

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