Genoa - Maritime transport to the Italian islands, especially that of passengers, might have experienced a considerable drop, but the routes connecting Italy to North Africa, seem totally unaffected by the crisis and soon maritime transport to the entire area of Maghreb might even be demonstrating growth. This trend is confirmed by Ariodante Valeri, General Manager of Grandi Navi Veloci, the Italian shipping company that in 2003 opened the Genoa-Tunis line, in 2008 opened the Genoa-Barcelona-Tangiers line and on May 26th 2012 inaugurated two new maritime links between the French port of Sète and the Moroccan ports of Tangier and Nador.
Why do you think, there is generally a great deal of concern when talking about North Africa?
“As far as we are concerned there is no such worry and we as a company do not share this view. We have been operating in Tunisia for more than a decade and the route departing from Genoa, just to give you an example, serves 200 million passengers every year. In the last three years we have merely experienced a slight drop due to social unrest”.
You also have a presence in Morocco.
“GNV is greatly interested in this country which demonstrates a remarkable growth potential for the near future, compared to all the other countries in the region. I was recently in Morocco and I observed a situation that is constantly improving. There is a great need for lines connecting the country with Europe and there are significant investments being made. There are no problems of political instability and we as a company have never experienced any bureaucratic obstacles”.
So the Genoa port has a pretty clear idea of what North Africa has to offer?
“I would say yes, at least as far as our sector is concerned. Statistics confirm that from the port of Genoa there are increasing numbers of African citizens who depart on our lines to return home for short or fairly long holidays”.
So based on the data you have at your disposal, would you say that sea travel remains regular, or not?
“There are, as would be expected, certain periods, usually before and after Islamic holidays, when bookings peak”.
Libya and Algeria: would you be able to open links on these routes?
“As far as Libya is concerned, there is certainly a great deal of interest, especially when it comes to freight transport. I was recently in Tripoli but if we’re to speak in more general terms, even though the situation seemed stable, I believe we should wait a bit longer before we proceed with new initiatives. In the case of Algeria, on the other hand, there are already a few state companies operating from the national ports but there might be new and interesting opportunities emerging in future if the frontiers with Morocco were to open”.
The passengers travelling on your ships are mainly African citizens. Would you say that in future you’d be able to transport more tourists, even of European origin towards Tunisia or Morocco for their summer holidays?
“I believe that ships are not the transport of choice for most holidaymakers these days. However, we already have a small number of European clients, for example all the off-road fanatics who travel extensively towards North Africa and who regularly use our ships in order to transport their vehicles and heavy gear”.