“Growth in traffic is expected to continue over the next few years.” And not just containers but also ro-ro and oil shipping services. According to Gian Enzo Duci, president of Federagenti, Mediterranean ports will experience further increases in freight handled, despite the recent economic crisis that has affected many European countries. As for Italy, over the last year ro-ro traffic has stood out as a true value added segment, and the most important traffic segment in the whole Mediterranean area. The most recent demographic studies, in fact, point out that the region, by 2050, will have 650 million inhabitants against the current 450 million, and therefore it will be almost as populated as Europe as a whole is currently. A demographic trend that will be reflected in shipping traffic, requiring more flexible port facilities and infrastructures than the sole container ship-container terminal system.
So, are all Italian ports across the board destined to record an increase in freight handled? Is there no chance of activity slowing down?
“The concentration in shipping lines will result in extremely large container ships calling at a limited number of ports. But there will always be some portion of services, operated by smaller ships that will focus on those ports that apparently risk suffering a reduction in volumes. In 2000, maritime shipping accounted for one ton of freight carried for each of the world’s inhabitants: about five and a half billion tons. While there’s six billion people now, we currently have broken the ten-billion ton mark, or almost 1.4 tons per person, 40% more. This means that the sea transport sector is destined to grow for the simple reason that there are more and more products being transported by ship.”
How much does competition from ports in France and Spain weigh on Italy?
“Not much. Let me explain: even when you include those in the Mediterranean basin, our competitors are by and large the ports of Northern Europe. The ships that call in at French and Spanish ports rarely supply the markets that our ports serve. The same is true for Greece and Turkey. However, many of the goods that are destined for the docks of Northern Europe could be shipped to Italian ports. I mean, products that are transported to areas such as Switzerland and Bavaria, just to give two examples.”
The Silk Road. Are Chinese investments a positive element for the Mediterranean economies and the entire port sector?
“Beijing’s policies have placed the entire Mediterranean area at the centre of its sphere of interest, and this is positive, not only for the ports’ supply chain, but, more generally, for the entire Italian manufacturing sector. Already now, for example, 30% of all commercial exchanges between Italy and China transit through the port of Genoa, and this can be an excellent starting point.”
What will the role of Italian shipping agents be in the future development of traffic that will cross the Mediterranean area?
“As shipping agents we operate across many sectors: containers, cruises, tramp services to ships carrying oil, coal, and other dry bulk cargoes, as well as in marine management, leisure yachting, providing assistance to engine-powered and sailing yachts, and in the brokering services, through the intermediation and search for freight cargo and the buying and selling of vessels. The range of our work is very wide, and touches on various aspects related to the increase in freight traffic, encompassing the entire Mediterranean basin area. In recent years, our profession has also been affected by the concentration of the main global lines, but our role remains fundamental to the entire shipping sector. It is no coincidence that even in those agencies where cuts or staff reductions took place, those who left were then able to get employed over the short to medium term.”