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Pasqualino Monti, fighting for Italy’s southern docks / INTERVIEW

Young and ambitious, Monti relaunched the ports of Rome. Sicily is his new challenge: “We must regain the market’s respect.”

HE’S often described as determined and decisive, brilliant in his ability to grasp things immediately; as excessively superstitious, a trait which betrays his southern Italian origin (a native of Ischia, near Naples); and of possessing self-assurance without appearing presumptuous.

And yet he’s certainly seen his share of problems, not least whilst running the port of Civitavecchia, near Rome; that experience tested his levels of endurance. But, in the end, he came out unscathed, battle hardened and more combative.

Determined to follow his own path, he’s now ready to give battle to relaunch the ports under his current Port System Authority (ADSP) leadership: Palermo, Trapani and Termini Imerese.

Extremely attached to his 11-year-old son Matteo, with whom he enjoys playing with Maggy, the family dog, his dream as a boy was becoming a footballer.

The facts: 44-years old, president of the Port System Authority of the Western Sea of Sicily.

Beginning in Civitavecchia and moving on to Palermo and Trapani with Termini Imerese and Porto Empedocle in between.

What is your plan to boost the growth and efficiency of these ports?
“The key word is requalification, of our port network’s offerings, so as to demonstrate to the market we’re reliable and efficient in achieving such a goal with extraordinary speed. But above all, I believe that our main task must be to garner the respect of the market, especially of those who see Sicily and its ports as a no man’s land without real hope.”

You were the architect of the significant development that the port of Civitavecchia underwent, are you planning to replicate that in Palermo?
“This is a big challenge, Palermo, Termini Imerese, Trapani and Porto Empedocle. But we will meet that challenge because the citizens of these ports deserve it.”

Any thoughts on how to operate those ports located in the extreme South? Many would hesitate: how do you feel?
“I won’t deny it, there are real difficulties, especially with regards to the many years that these ports have been left to their own devices.”

What’s your impressions of the port environment there?
“Very responsive regarding its community, but decidedly insufficient from the point of view of infrastructure and berthing facilities.”

In your opinion what is still missing, if something is missing, from the port reform to make Italian ports take off, once and for all?
“A serious battle against bureaucracy has not been waged. On the contrary, if at all possible, the reform that was ushered in has placed the system authorities in a straightjacket of procedures and rules that are preventing and conditioning their operational capacity.”

Some businesses, especially in Liguria, affirm that the evil of ADSPs resides in an exaggerated bureaucratic structure, and in excessive operational constraints. Do you agree?
“Of course, I agree. I also wrote a book about how mortifying an experience it can be to work within these facilities, for a manager who wants to improve things, and not just sit behind a desk.”

Also in Liguria, the President of the Region, Giovanni Toti, is calling for a de-bureaucratization of Port Authorities, and to equip them with the decision-making mechanisms and governance of a public limited company. What do you think?
“I believe that the debate on the structure of ports should be reopened as soon as possible, and new formulas must be found, perhaps by copying or borrowing them from abroad, which would make the Authorities an engine of the economy, and not a brake. With contributions from those who know what they are talking about.”

In Civitavecchia, despite having worked hard and well, you did not have an easy life, amid intrigues, envies, innuendos etc. .. What did you learn from the experience?
“I learned a lesson: that whoever advances the cause of the public good runs certain risks. Including exposing oneself to being the victim of slander that comes too easily in this country. The truth always prevails, but often with great delay and having already appealed to the baser element. This will not prevent me from making the same “mistake”, that is, being faithful to my mandate as a manager, with which I’ve been entrusted, and to strive to make a contribution in the realm of true economic growth, and therefore to healthy and lasting employment.”

How are your current relations with Assoporti and which policies do you not agree with?
“Assoporti, as it stands today, is probably completely useless. It could, and should, have played an essential role in advising the government in every one of the phases of policy-decisions for maritime assets, ports, transport and infrastructure.”

Is the failure or delay in the implementation of major projects always the fault of bureaucracy?

“Ours is a complicated country, in which the capacity to proscribe the achievement of works that are really useful for the community and for the country overall, is, by norm and practice, granted to too many subjects. Bureaucracy at the ports and across the country is a cancer that we’re treating with an aspirin.”

Cruise ship traffic is growing, what will you do to attract new traffic to these shores, where there ports without serious infrastructures under your lead which wish to operate?
“Allow me to keep a modicum of reserve; we will shortly present an important operational plan regarding this, with some things already under construction, others already achieved, and still others in the planning stages.”

You are young and ambitious, what is your next goal?
“My goals are the ports of Palermo, Termini Imerese, Trapani and Porto Empedocle.”

Pasqualino Monti is considered a handsome man with a certain charm, has this created problems or has it facilitated things, initially at least?
“A wise man once said that business is business; the rest does not matter. I believe that this country has lived on appearances for too many years.”

Who is the most precious person in your life?
“My son, Matteo.”

Are you satisfied with what you’ve achieved so far?
“Yes, certainly. I am a lucky man, who has received a lot from life, and is committed to building a better future.”

What would you change from the past?
“I believe that in life it’s good to look ahead. Wherever I have been asked to do things, I have tried to make my contribution count with determination, honesty, and a lot of pragmatism. I think that when the result of one’s work allows many, young and old, to find lasting jobs, then a goal has been achieved.”

Do you have any regrets?
“Who doesn’t? But those who live with regrets do not build the future.”

You were born on Ischia, and then lived in Rome, do you feel like a man from the South?
“I feel like a man from the South, with ties to the South, a large area of Italy that deserves much more, and that should also do much more to deserve it.”

Do you practice any sports?
“Actually, I’m a little lazy but I try to keep myself in shape. I go to the gym, I run, and sometimes I try to play tennis, with very little success.”

You have an 11-year-old son, how do you spend time together? “With Matteo I play, but I also talk a lot. I repeat to him that he is my most precious treasure. He is an intelligent child.”

What interests do you share? “Many. Not least our wonderful dog, Maggy.”


Do you consider yourself a good father?
“I don’t think anyone can call himself a good father. I try, I make the effort.”

What do you like in a woman?
“Intelligence and femininity.”

As a child, what did you dream of doing when you grew up?
“I used to play football very often, and I dreamed of becoming a professional football player.”

What fascinates you about the sea and harbours?
“The absence of borders.”

Which pictorial image, or which song do you associate with ports? “With the paintings of the artist Jacob Philipp Hackert who, at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, was commissioned by the Bourbons to depict all the ports of the Kingdom in oil paintings. Naturally this is a studied reply ... .”

Where would you like to live?
“Of course Ischia is dear to my heart.”

What pop song does the sea bring to mind?
“Antonello Venditti’s song High tide.”

What do you see when you go around a harbour by yourself?
“I see Italy, a marvellous country that we have worked hard to ruin.”

Your favourite movie? Do you like the theatre?
“My favourite movie is The Shawshank Redemption and I love the theatre.”

Are you a fan of computers, digital media, iPhones ...?

“I use them.”

You are a young 44-year old man, what do you like about the future and what do you miss of the past, even the recent past?
“I like a challenge.”

What scares you in life?
“Boredom, banality and hypocrisy.”

I know you are a very superstitious person, do you have a luck-inducing routine?
“Yes, but I won’t tell you because I am superstitious.”

Shipowners: with which one are you most at ease?
“With anyone that brings ships and traffic to the port that has been entrusted to me.”

A dream of yours that you’d like to come true?
“Dreams, true ones, vanish the moment they’re revealed....”

Who is the true Pasqualino Monti? “Simply… Pasqualino Monti.”

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