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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access January 30, 2024

Water transportation planning in connection with extreme weather conditions; case study – Port of Novi Sad, Serbia

  • Nenad Komazec , Svetislav Šoškić EMAIL logo , Aleksandar Milić , Katarina Štrbac and Aleksandar Valjarević
From the journal Open Geosciences


The Danube has a length of 588 km in the Republic of Serbia. The water transport on this river is underused. The hazardous events have a great impact on the traffic on this river, and the understanding of these events is of great importance. This study focuses on hazardous events on the Danube with the main focus on the port of Novi. The hazardous events used in this study are extreme air temperatures, devastating winds, drought, and heavy precipitation. The hazardous events were represented using geographic information systems (GIS), geostatistics, and numerical methods. The potential of the river transport network and the port capacity were analyzed and compared with the hazardous events of the last 30 years. The results showed that three areas of the port are of great importance for port security, and two areas are extremely affected by hazardous events. The distance of the port of Novi Sad from heavy precipitation events is 6.8 km in the southwestern direction. The periods of extremely low precipitation (climatic drought) were in 1994, 2008, 2012, 2015, 2019, and 2021. Extreme average maximum temperatures were in 1995, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2015, and 2019. On the other hand, minimum average temperatures were in 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2017, and 2018, and the strongest winds were in 1995, 1998, 2003, 2009, 2012, and 2014. The methods and techniques of GIS, used in this research, have confirmed new potential geographical positions of the port that can be better adapted to future climate changes. Another main objective of this research is to recommend better spatial planning and construction of new green corridors.

1 Introduction

The geographical position of Novi Sad port is on geographical coordinates (45.26871°N and 19.85599°E). The elevation of the port is 76.2 m with a geographical azimuth of 234.3456°N [22]. The main buildings of the port are very close to the channel Danube–Tisa–Danube, only 118 m away, the main dock being about 3.3 m from the channel, whereas the parallel docks are 5.5 m away. The main buildings have a distance of 953 m from the Danube river. The area of the port is 836,035 m2, and it is divided into three main zones. The ports on the Danube are of great importance for river traffic in Serbia. The most important ports in Serbia are located in the cities of Belgrade, Novi Sad, Smederevo, and Apatin. After Belgrade, the port in Novi Sad is the largest. The annual cargo throughput in 2020 was 40,000 t [1]. According to the climate change effects, the port of the city of Novi Sad is also affected, especially by the hazardous weather events. In the last 30 years were plenty extreme weather events as heavy rains, devastating winds, climatological drought, low air temperatures, etc. These events are also connected with the general climate condition in the province of Vojvodina, one climatic cycle (1991–2021) [2,3,4,5]. Particularly in the last 10 years (2011–2021), the dangerous weather events and the low water level of the Danube were essential for the river traffic. [6].

In general, the climate in Vojvodina is temperate continental, with cold winters and hot and humid summers, with a large number of days with extreme temperatures. The average annual temperature is 11.1°C with an annual precipitation of 606 mm [7]. In the northern part of Vojvodina, less than 300 mm of precipitation fell per year in the last decade, while in the central part with the city of Novi Sad between 400 and 600 mm fell [8]. Extreme temperatures in the Novi Sad area are particularly high in the summer months of July and August. In this period, the water level of the Danube is the lowest [9,10,11]. Climate drivers are related to weather variability. There are two types of variability: seasonal and annual. After the analysis of 92 meteorological stations in Vojvodina, analyzed in the period 1946–2006, the precipitation series were studied as singular vectors. The highest precipitation with hazardous effects falls in summer with 68.8% and in winter with 81.8%. The results of temperature measurements indicate that the warming in Vojvodina could be due to the stronger expression and greater frequency of warm bioclimatic extreme conditions [11]. Another factor that is important for safe river travel is cloud cover. Cloudiness is closely related to relief. The cloudiest month in Serbia, according to the estimation between 1989 and 2019, is February. The month with the least cloudiness in the same period is June. Using MODIS satellite imagery, cloudiness was estimated along with cloudy areas. In the region around Novi Sad, the cloudiness is highest in the period between December and February. The average cloudiness in this region is lower than in the rest of the country [12]. The agricultural drought of the last three decades was closely related to the low water phases on the Danube near the port of Novi Sad [10]. A significant temperature increase is observed in winter and spring, while a similar trend is observed in the average minimum temperatures. On the other hand, the average maximum values show a rather slow trend of temperature increase or even decrease, while a significant trend of air temperature decrease is observed during summer and spring periods. In autumn, temperatures were 2.1°C higher than in the last observation period. In the same period, the lower water level of the Danube River is associated with higher temperatures. The water level was 100 cm lower than usual [13]. The extreme temperatures UV-B radiation are in the central and northern parts of Vojvodina increased by 5.2% [14]. The Port of Novi Sad has recently experienced a steady annual growth in cargo throughput. The last analysis showed that the port of Novi Sad has 1,500,000 tonnes per year and a maximum throughput of 2,500,000 tons per year [15]. The total value of goods in all ports on the Danube in 2020 was 5,700,000 t per year [16]. The plans of the Serbian river navigation envisage increasing the throughput by more than 50% in the next 10 years. The main problem in achieving this goal is the large occurrence of hazards due to the planned climate change. The Port of Novi Sad is located in a belt of extreme climate impact, extreme precipitation, and temperature. The administration of the Port of Novi Sad is trying to increase the throughput by more than 50% or 750,000 tons per year by 2030 [17]. The Danube is the most important waterway for the transportation of goods between European countries. Large amounts of fossil fuels have been consumed for transportation on this river, which poses the greatest threat to global warming and the implementation of the concept of sustainable development. This river is also connected with major canals such as Rhine–Main–Danube and Danube–Tisa–Danube. Each extreme climatic event has a variety of consequences. The 1950 agreement provides safe transportation on this river at low water levels. Unfortunately, this rule is broken very often in the summer season. The risk to safety on the Danube has increased by 25% since 1950 [18]. The sustainability of water transport on the Danube must include less transport that uses fossil fuels. Extreme climate events can accelerate the decision to stop transport during summer and winter seasons [19]. The hydrometeorological processes of the Danube, in combination with extreme hydrological events, are one of the parameters for sustainable water transport. At the same time, the ecological balance of the most important river in Europe must be maintained. Estimating all river properties with climatic parameters is very important [20]. Another crucial factor for safe water transport on the Danube is adaptation to the future impacts of climate change. In the coming decades, the Danube valley and floodplains, especially near the delta, need to be preserved and better managed. This process includes long-term monitoring of extreme climate events [2].

2 Materials and methods

2.1 Overview of the study area

The location of the port of Novi Sad is valuable for river traffic. Novi Sad has a good geographical position in Serbia. This location is connected with an important corridor, E-10 (European road ten). This route (railroad and highway) connects the northern part of Europe – Denmark, Sweden – with southern Europe – Athens (Greece), and Istanbul (Turkey). The port of Novi Sad is connected by railroad and highway. The location for river traffic is very good, as it is very close to the Danube–Tisa–Danube canal, in addition to the Danube (Figure 1) [21,22].

Figure 1 
                  The geographical location of the study areas, including the river network of the Republic of Serbia.
Figure 1

The geographical location of the study areas, including the river network of the Republic of Serbia.

2.2 Data sources and processing

The main methods belong to the geostatistical, numerical, and Geographic Information System (GIS) approaches. The climate characteristics, including extreme weather events, and the printed topographic maps at a scale of 1:25,000 from different periods of origin (1987, 1995, 2002, 2007) with geographical location and area of the port were analyzed. The process of digitization included the process of vectorization [23]. The meteorological data used are from the main meteorological stations in the Republic of Serbia and Vojvodina province. The analyzed period is 1991–2021 ( This database contains meteorological data (minimum, maximum, and average temperature; precipitation amount; wind strength; and direction). The data for the analysis of the generalized grid were obtained from the DIVA – GIS database ( From this database, past climatological data were used at a resolution of 30 s or at a grid of 1 km2 [2427].

2.3 Methods

The main methods used in this study were interpolation and kriging using Automated Geoscience Analysis (SAGA 3.1) and Quantum Geographical Information Systems (QGIS 3.16) software. Although there are several other methods, interpolation and kriging are preferred [28]. The spatial extension in QGIS allows any spatial calculation. Using this algorithm, it is possible to estimate the spatial location of the port with respect to the distribution of hazards. Buffer analysis was used to estimate the distribution of hazardous events such as heavy rainfall. The buffer analysis included three types of circles. The first circle has a radius of 400 m, the second has a radius of 800 m, and the third has a radius of 1,500 m. The buffer map was created from the combination of all three circles. The vector method and the interpolation method were used to estimate the wind power [29,30].

Apart from the buffer analysis, which is not sufficient to estimate the areas of the hazardous event itself, zonal statistical analysis is applicable to provide final spatial calculations and results. An algorithm for zonal statistics was developed and parallelized to process the input data. The algorithm depends on open-source libraries and packages supported by QGIS software. Zonal statistics is suitable for the analysis of vector and raster data. The main advantage of this method is the simultaneous calculation of points, lines, and areas [31,32].

The meteorological hazardous events are analyzed by a modified Likert scale. The scale is divided into eight marks. The results from this scale are presented as numerical values. Mark 0 is labeled as no hazardous events, while mark 7 stands for dangerous hazardous events [33]. To analyze and estimate extreme maximum and minimum temperatures in the area of the port, kriging and interpolation methods were used. Apart from the kriging method, semi-kriging and global kriging algorithms were used as well for the analysis of temperature extremes [34,35]. In addition to the analysis of weather and climate data, satellite records were also analyzed for this study. These satellite records are divided into three groups. The first group represents the area of the harbor over time (1990–2020), the second represents the meteorological data over time, and the third represents the terrain near the harbor. The geo-tiff was downloaded from the Land Sat 8 and Sentinel 1 satellite missions with a resolution of 30 m [36,37]. The algorithm for the relief of the port area was the Hillshade algorithm. This algorithm provided satisfactory results in finely calculating relief properties [38,39]. The Hillshade algorithm provided important results for shadow and dew volume. In this algorithm and method, there are two important parameters: azimuth horizontal angle and geographic azimuth.

3 Results

3.1 The results of river network connectivity with the port

The first zone is the zone of the work area and occupies 60%. The second zone belongs to the docks and occupies 25%, and the last, third zone belongs to the cargo area and has 15% of the total area. According to the climate analysis, there have been ten extreme weather conditions in the last three decades. The most dangerous were heavy rains and devastating winds. These two dangerous events had a significant impact on the functionality of the port.

The network of Vojvodina province is symmetrical and has great traffic potential. The city of Novi Sad, together with the port, is well connected with the three main watercourses – the Danube, the Sava, and the Danube–Tisa–Danube canal. In this way, the port is connected with the main rivers in the Republic of Serbia. The estimation showed that the port of Novi Sad has a central location and is situated 85.2 km north of Belgrade, on the route of the Danube. After the digital analysis of the geographical position of the port, it was found that this port has a concave symmetry. This part has an azimuth of 310° and an angle of 20° with respect to the main dock. The port is located 81.8 km from Croatia on the waterway to the west, 188.3 km from Hungary to the north, 132.7 km from Romania to the east, and 61.5 km from central Serbia to the south. GIS and remote sensing showed a great traffic potential of this port. The main watercourse that can be important for the better location of the port is the Danube-Tisa-Danube Canal. The geographical location of the port of Novi Sad, including this canal, is concave and central to the province of Vojvodina (Figures 2 and 3).

Figure 2 
                  The river network in the province of Vojvodina with the main cities and the research area.
Figure 2

The river network in the province of Vojvodina with the main cities and the research area.

Figure 3 
                  The location of the port of Novi Sad on the territory of the city of Novi Sad.
Figure 3

The location of the port of Novi Sad on the territory of the city of Novi Sad.

3.2 The results of the extreme precipitations

The territory of the city of Novi Sad covers 702.7 km2 of the territory. According to the maximum precipitation in the port area in the period 1991–2021, the contour line with a value of 660 mm occupied 0.2 km2 of the territory. The dangerous events with the highest precipitation on the territory of the city of Novi Sad took place in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2007, 2014, 2016, and 2019 (Figure 4). The area with the precipitation of 700 mm occupied 2.9 km2, while the precipitation of 720 mm occupied 8.7 km2 of the territory. The contour line with the precipitation of 740 mm had an area of 16.4 km2. The areas with the highest precipitation in the territory of Novi Sad occupied 45.2 km2. The highest average precipitation with 820 mm and 840 mm occupied 5 km2 of the area. In this way, the highest precipitation covered 0.7% of the territory. The area surrounding the port covered 0.03%. The distance of the port of Novi Sad from heavy precipitation events is 6.8 km in the southwestern direction (Figure 4).

Figure 4 
                  Maximum precipitation in the area of the port of Novi Sad in the period between 1991 and 2021.
Figure 4

Maximum precipitation in the area of the port of Novi Sad in the period between 1991 and 2021.

3.3 The results of the minimum precipitations

According to the data from 1991 to 2021, the minimum precipitation (climatic drought) was concentrated mainly in the western areas of Novi Sad (Figure 5). The area of the port had a contour line with a value of 460 mm of precipitation and covered an area of 2.6 km2 or 0.4%. The drought areas in the west occupied 3.3 km2 or 0.5% of the territory. The areas with less than 400 mm of precipitation (extreme drought) occupied 4.3 km2 or 0.6% of the territory. These areas are mainly concentrated in the western and southern parts. The contour line with a precipitation value of 460 mm occupied 4.6 km2 or 0.7% of the area. The periods with extremely low precipitation (climatic drought) were 1994, 1995, 1999, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2012, 2015, 2019, and 2021 (Figure 5).

Figure 5 
                  Minimum precipitation in the area of the port of Novi Sad in the period 1991–2021.
Figure 5

Minimum precipitation in the area of the port of Novi Sad in the period 1991–2021.

3.4 The results of the maximum temperatures

According to the data from 1991 to 2021, the extreme temperatures were concentrated in the area of the city of Novi Sad near the port area. The contour line of 23.5°C occupied 0.9 km2 or 0.1% of the city area. This contour line is located near the port of Novi Sad. Extremely high average temperatures occupied 2.2 km2 or 0.3% of the area. The areas with lower average maximum temperatures covered 9.5 km2 or 1.4% of the territory. The areas with extremely high temperatures exceeding 20.0°C occupied 101.2 km2 or 14.4% of the territory. Extreme average maximum temperatures within the 30-year period caused dangerous events in 1995, 1997, 1999, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2015, 2019, and 2020 (Figure 6).

Figure 6 
                  Maximum temperatures in the area of the port of Novi Sad in the period 1991–2021.
Figure 6

Maximum temperatures in the area of the port of Novi Sad in the period 1991–2021.

3.5 The results of the minimum temperatures

The lowest average temperatures in the period from 1991 to 2021 were 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2012, 2017, and 2018. The contour line with the value of −3.0°C near the port of Novi Sad covered 0.1 km2 or 0.01% of the area. The minimum average temperatures are located in the west, south, and east of the territory of Novi Sad. The contour lines with values of −4.2°C and −4.0°C occupied 34.5 km2 or 4.9% of the territory. The port of Novi Sad is located 2.3 km south and 7.8 km east from the area of minimum temperatures (Figure 7).

Figure 7 
                  Minimum temperatures in the area of the port of Novi Sad in the period 1991–2021.
Figure 7

Minimum temperatures in the area of the port of Novi Sad in the period 1991–2021.

3.6 The results of the strongest winds

In this research, the wind analysis in the Novi Sad area was the most important. In the period from 1991 to 2021, the wind was strongest in the northern and southern areas. The wind with a speed of 12 m/s near the port of Novi Sad occupied 1.9 km2 or 0.3% of the territory. The area with dangerous winds covered 3.2 km2 or 0.5% of the territory. The areas with winds of 18 m/s occupied 43.3 km2 or 6.2% of the territory. The port of Novi Sad is away from the strongest winds 3.0 km to the south, 7.3 km to the east, and 6.2 km to the north. In the period from 1991 to 2021, the strongest winds were in 1995, 1998, 2003, 2009, 2012, 2014, and 2017 (Figure 8).

Figure 8 
                  Strong winds in the area of the port of Novi Sad in the period 1991–2021.
Figure 8

Strong winds in the area of the port of Novi Sad in the period 1991–2021.

3.7 The results of the geostatistical analysis

The modified Likert scale is presented in Table 1. This analysis, together with the zonal statistics, completes the results of the characteristics of water traffic in the port of Novi Sad. The Likert scale provides a better insight into water transport in relation to the extreme events of the last 30 years (Table 1).

Table 1

Modified Likert scale of extreme events in the area of the Port of Novi Sad; the scale is divided into eight points

Type of extreme weather Maximum Average Minimum Number of events
Maximum precipitation 7 6.5 2 1,045
Maximum average temperatures 6.0 5.5 3 1,234
Minimum average temperatures 5.0 4.5 1 989
Powerful winds 4.0 3.5 1 199

The studied period of the modified Likert scale showed that the maximum precipitation has the strongest influence on the port of Novi Sad. In the last 30 years (1991–2021), there were 1,045 days with maximum precipitation. The number of days with maximum average temperatures reached the peak value of 1,234, ranking first among weather extremes, and the third place is occupied by days with minimum average temperatures, the number of which is 989. The occurrence of strong winds was lowest on 199 days in the last 30 years. The results of the last 30 years show the influence of climate change effects. Maximum average temperatures can lead to low water levels in the Danube, and maximum precipitation is associated with large floods in the last 30 years. This period is associated with the extreme weather events explained earlier.

The results of zonal statics included extreme events of five climate parameters, which were investigated in this study. The advancement of this research is the presentation of the data in spatial resolution. This spatial resolution shows the extreme events including the longitude and latitude (Figure 9).

Figure 9 
                  Zonal statistics of five weather events in the 30 years (1991–2021).
Figure 9

Zonal statistics of five weather events in the 30 years (1991–2021).

Zonal statistics showed the geographical distribution of main meteorological hazardous events in the area of the port of Novi Sad. The maximum precipitation is concentrated in the central and east-west directions. The minimum precipitation is commonly distributed in central and southwest parts. The maximum temperatures are randomly concentrated in the port area. The minimum temperatures are concentrated in the west parts. Finally, the powerful winds are distributed southward (Figure 9).

According to the calculations of GIS and taking into account extreme weather conditions within 30 years, the new location of the port must be 1.5 km away from the old location. The port can be located on the south side and with a geographical azimuth of 92°S. The green belts can be useful to mitigate strong winds blowing from the south. New green belts with an area of 25,000 m2 are also good for regulating extreme temperature fluctuations.

4 Discussion

The location of the port in Novi Sad is important for river traffic in the Republic of Serbia, and it also has European significance. The advancement of engineering and technology influenced, as in other areas, the increasingly accelerated development of water transport. The carrying capacity and performance of vessels increased constantly, and their operational and structural characteristics, mass ratio, speed of movement, safety, maneuverability, suitability for manipulation, etc., were developed and improved. Characteristic of this type of transportation, in addition to the increase in the carrying capacity of ships, is their specialization in certain goods and types of transportation. Today, bulk cargoes (oil, coal, grain, timber, ores) account for about 75% of the total transport. On the other hand, river transport is highly dependent on weather conditions. Extreme climatic conditions can slow down the flow of goods on rivers or even bring the entire transport to a standstill [40].

As recent decades have shown, the effects of climate change will have the greatest impact on the world’s waterways. The increase in temperatures, devastating winds, freezing days, and floods are the main problems for the functionality of ports. The ports on the rivers will be particularly affected by the dangerous events, as they are always located between land and water [41]. The ports in Northern Europe have problems with the ice months and low (frosty) temperatures, great floods. Likewise, the river ports in the flooded regions have problems with the rice of the rivers, extreme temperatures, and devastating winds [42]. This study refers to a 30-year climate cycle (1991–2021) and is analyzed together with the port of Novi Sad geographical location. In the world, the efficiency of river transport is strongly related to weather and climate conditions [4345]. The average maximum temperatures in the port area were not extremely high. However, there are extremely high-temperature belts within 5 km of the port. The average minimum temperatures in the port area are not dangerous. Only in 3 months, namely December, January, and February, the river is icy. In February, the use of icebreakers is necessary because 70% of the month is covered with ice [46,47]. The area with the lowest precipitation is in the immediate vicinity of the port area. The water deficit can lead to a low level of the Danube in the following 4 months: April, June, August, and December. The area that received the most rainfall in the last 30 years was 5 km from the port area. However, major floods occurred five times in the last 30 years. The most dangerous weather condition, apart from major rainfall (floods) and minor rainfall (droughts), is strong winds. In the vicinity of the port area, the wind speed was 12 m/s during (1991–2021). Devastating winds brought river traffic to a halt for more than 15 days on five occasions in the past. Although this study did not consider all extreme weather events, it could provide a solid basis for a more detailed study in the future. The port of Novi Sad is the largest port in the province of Vojvodina and could be one of the most important transportation hubs in the Republic of Serbia in the future. On the other hand, two types of weather extremes have a great impact on the port: drought and strong winds. A modified Likert scale was used to represent the probability and occurrence of meteorological events in the port area. This scale is successful when combined with spatial data and analysis from GIS. Zonal statistics belongs to the GIS method. These methods are well suited to visualize spatial data and provide satisfactory results. The most important progress of this research is the use of GIS and numerical methods and procedures to create a new green belt and spatial plan for future climate change. This spatial plan can be crucial for the management of the port and water transport system of the Republic of Serbia (Figure 10). Some limitations of this study lie in the lack of spatial data, especially historical data. The other problem was the very difficult financing of dangerous events and their records. The next investigation could be better in terms of analyzing a larger number of spatial and meteorological data. The future analysis could also include light detection and ranging and a precise digital elevation model with a resolution of at least 5 m, which could make the average accuracy of the analyzed data much better. Ultimately, the digitized river network data for all rivers in the Republic of Serbia can be progress and a future goal for all water sectors.

Figure 10 
               The new potential location of the port of Novi Sad and the location of the green belts.
Figure 10

The new potential location of the port of Novi Sad and the location of the green belts.

5 Conclusion

Ports around the world have specific geographic locations with defined latitude and longitude. Developed transport is important for the successful establishment of connections between people, nations, and all other entities aimed at mutual communication from various interests. It is intended for mass transportation of low-value goods that do not require high delivery speeds, with very low transportation costs. This port is very important for the Republic of Serbia, and with 40,000 tons of cargo handled, it is one of the largest in the Balkan Peninsula region. Using meteorological and geostatistical data from 1991 to 2021 with the help of GIS, port and climate (weather extremes) were analyzed in relation. This research showed a strong correlation between weather conditions and river traffic. The Danube, with a length of 588 km through Serbia, is the most important river for traffic. The port of Novi Sad is becoming one of the most important transport hubs with the economic development of Serbia. This research showed the main problems for the future port activity based on the data analyzed in the past. These problems are related to maximum and minimum temperatures, maximum and minimum precipitations, and devastating winds. The most dangerous weather conditions were maximum and minimum temperatures and strong winds. These periods of extreme weather conditions were 1995, 2008, 2014, and 2016, according to the analysis conducted in the study. The geographic location of ports is very important for better traffic management. In the future, this work could be extended to the analysis of all river ports in the Republic of Serbia. This research could provide new insight into extreme weather conditions and better prediction of port suitability, including climate change impacts. This research is just one small step in an effort to make water transportation in Serbia safer and better.


The study was supported by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia (Contract number 451-03-47/2023-01/200091). The authors are very grateful to the University of Defense, Military Academy, Belgrade, Serbia for the support.

  1. Author contributions: Conceptualization: N.K., S.S., A.V., A.M.; methodology: N.K., A.V.; formal analysis: A.M., K.Š.; investigation: S.S., N.K., K.Š., A.M.; data curation: S.S., A.V., N.K; writing – original draft preparation: A.M.; writing – review and editing: N.K.; project administration: S.S.; funding acquisition: A.M.

  2. Conflict of interest: Authors state no conflict of interest.


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Received: 2022-07-03
Revised: 2023-08-02
Accepted: 2023-09-30
Published Online: 2024-01-30

© 2024 the author(s), published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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