“Med ports must look to North Africa” / INTERVIEW

Alberti (Fedespedi): “We need to focus on building relations with the Maghreb region”.

DEVELOPMENT of Italian ports is hugely dependent on an increase in traffic with N. Africa Roberto Alberti, president of Fedespedi, is firmly convinced of this, believing that “a great share of growth opportunities are to be had from trade with the Maghreb area.” The association of Italian freight forwarders brings together a 2,200 companies with a total of 80,000 employees, that in turn provide employment to almost 100,000 self-employed workers, resulting in a turnover of over 20 billion euro per year.

Why is it necessary to focus on developing economic relations with African countries?

“The North African region has not seen the growth in recent years that all operators, including those in the maritime and transport sectors, had expected. This slowdown has been caused by a series of geopolitical events with heavy repercussions on productivity. But that situation is already changing, and other foreign investors have noticed this; China, for instance, is investing in Egypt with the aim of ensuring control over its main port infrastructures.”

For which ports of the Mediterranean, Italian ones in particular, will trade relations with Africa be decisive?

“Particularly the ports of Southern Italy. Many ports in the south are even looking at creating special economic zones that will surely spur growth, with the arrival of products and goods that are currently destined elsewhere.”

How much is Italy’s trade with Africa worth?

“These countries represent about 3% of total Italian trade, exports and imports. There are signs of recovery in traffic, even with the most troubled countries, such as Libya. The outlook for exports is especially worrying, the road towards normalization will not be a short one.”

Are Italian ports still hindered by a backward infrastructure?

“The ports in Italy are competitive, anyone who says the opposite is wrong. I’m thinking here, in particular, of those projects that have already been completed, or those already approved and under construction. I am convinced that once all projects still in progress have been completed there will not be too many problems. There was certainly some lagging behind, but there’s a chance to make up for the lost time.”

What types of cargo should sea transport in the Mediterranean area focus on?

“Surely containerized cargo. But there are other kinds of cargo that will experience an upswing over the next few years. I’m thinking in particular of products that are transported aboard general cargo ships, vessels that because of their versatility will be increasingly used, especially in the links with North Africa. Then there’s oil and gas: here too we expect growth.”

What are the prospects for Italian shippers, generally?

“Our role is not about to change; we transport and manage freight shipments. Looking at relations with North Africa, where there are certain ports making great strides but are certainly less organized than our own, the role of shippers will be even more decisive for the success of cargo shipments. The companies associated with Fedespedi, which are spread out across Italy, organize the transport of goods using all modes of transport, both by sea and by road and rail. Shipping companies have always had a key role in the logistics chain, they’re bearers of a knowledge and professionalism that ranges across its multifaceted activities, and possess a natural vocation for market globalization. Many of our current company members are termed multimodal transport operators, or logistics services providers, in other words entities capable of handling, protecting and planning the whole spectrum of transport activities, as well as serving the interests of their customers and of Italy’s manufacturing system”.

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