Ravenna - The state group China Merchants, which also controls the China Merchants Bank, one of the banks that Beijing is using to finance the political-economic initiative of the new Silk Road (Belt and Road Initiative: a series of maritime and land infrastructure projects on the trade routes between China and Europe), has opened an R&D company for the oil and gas industry and the cruise ship sector in Ravenna.
With an investment of about €10 million and the purchase of a building of symbolic importance in Ravenna’s industrial world - the former headquarters of the Ferruzzi Group’s Italian Oil and Rice division - the CMIT Europe company (controlled by CMIH, the shipyard arm of China Merchants), they have hired 25 engineers from the Tozzi Group’s Comart company - which has been in liquidation since last March - with the aim of hiring 100 employees by the end of 2019.
“A world-class research centre will be set up here,” explained Paul Liang, the president of CMIT, “and we intend to quickly develop it in collaboration with the Municipality, the Port System Authority and ROCA”, which is the association that represents Ravenna’s companies operating in the offshore oil sector. The Chinese have targeted Ravenna - which will work closely with the CMG offices in Shenzhen - “because of the port’s professionalism in the oil and gas industry,” China Merchants explained.
Stefano Schiavo, CMIT Europe’s managing director and the link between Chinese investors and Ravenna, explained, “The first projects that the Ravenna offices will be working on will be a South American project currently in the acquisition phase, and another in West Africa that is the first floating refinery in the world”.
However, the objective in Ravenna does not seem to be only to restore the oil and gas sector, in which the port is an important point of reference in Italy, albeit one that has seen hard times in recent years. Through its network of subsidiaries in the Belt and Road initiative, the China Merchants group ($78 billion in turnover for 2017 with profits of $17.7 billion) controls 53 ports in 20 different countries.
Mayor Michele de Pascale and Daniele Rossi, president of the AdSP, talked at length with the Chinese leadership (Simple Hu, the general manager of CMIH, was also there) about the port’s other development programmes, focusing in particular on the provision of 200 hectares of back-port areas connected to logistics and the railway networks, and also the preparation of the seabed tenders by autumn, with work starting in early 2019 (first deepening to -12.5 metres, then to 14.5 metres; a project involving €250 million of public funds plus an equal amount of private investment)