Trieste - Two months have passed since the signing of the agreement between the port of Trieste and the Chinese state-owned company China Communication Construction company (CCCC), which has roused debates at the international level.
What are your expectations from this agreement?
“My first observation - answers Zeno D’Agostino, president of the Port System Authority of the Eastern Adriatic Sea - is that the conclusion of the agreement and the debate around it have had a global echo and this has brought great publicity to the port. Trieste was mentioned in all the newspapers and on all the television channels around the world. International public opinion is now better informed about our port. Unfortunately, Italy has only recently realised that ports exist, and that they play a strategic role both nationally and internationally. We received visits from many different delegations during the past few weeks, including the one from CCCC. We will move forward with China, keeping in mind the issue of Italian exports, which was emphasized little during the debates on the issue, but which is most important to us.”
What sort of initiatives are possible for Italian exports?
“We are reflecting on Italian wine exports to China, in this case from Friuli-Venezia Giulia. In a few weeks I will go to China with the aim of creating, together with CCCC, a logistics platform in China for Italian products.”
Were you annoyed by the criticism of the agreement with CCCC?
“Many people are talking about an invasion, but there are three reasons why we signed the agreement: the first is the Chinese investment in our Trihub rail development project; the second is the collaboration between the two countries; the third is the possibility that the port of Trieste could participate in CCCC’s project to build an intermodal terminal in Košice, Slovakia. In particular, the latter project is the one that has moved forward the fastest. We signed the agreement on 23 March and have given ourselves 90 days after which we will take stock of the situation. We have established that there is a real interest in exporting Italian products to China. The wine producers of Friuli-Venezia Giulia have visited the free port and in recent days, the Authority has decided to start work on a refrigerated platform within the free port.”
As far as the Trihub project is concerned, how far along are you?
“We are talking to the Chinese about the intermodal terminal adjacent to the station in Aquilinia. The biggest issue is to find out whether they will be interested in investing. They won’t go in where Rete Ferroviaria Italiana (RTI) already is, but there are other facilities that could be profitable for them. The Trihub project is also moving forward because of RFI’s dynamic and proactive engineers. By the end of 2019 there will be the reopening of the tunnel that connects the Campo Marzio, in the eastern part of the port, to the national railway network. It is a very important project. The transalpine line will also reopen, making it possible to reach Villa Opicina and reducing the current route by 37km. It is an operation financed by RFI which will make it possible to increase the capacity of the port by 3,000 train pairs per year. And then we also plan to close the tender for the new Campo Marzio station, with work to be completed by 2023. We have set up a new railway management department to handle these projects. We are the only port system authority in Italy to have done so.”
Are you only interested in the New Silk Road by Sea, or are you also interested in the land-based Silk Road?
“Trieste is the easternmost city in Italy and can act as a collector of goods headed for China from northern Italy by land. We participate in the Central European Initiative (INCE), which is based in Trieste and brings together twenty nations from Eastern Europe. Here we are analysing the possibility of forming a direct train link to Chengdu, not via Duisburg.”