“The offshore port? It’s up to the market to say that the project won’t work”

Genoa - President of Venice’s Port Authority, Pino Musolino: “I’m bringing the space rocket back down to Earth. What about cruise ships? This traffic is something that we cannot give up”.

di Matteo Dell’Antico

Genoa - “My task will be to bring the space rocket back to planet Earth: the market says that the offshore platform won’t work.” Pino Musolino, who has been the president of the port of Venice for only a few months, gets straight to the point. And he rejects the project that was his predecessor Paolo Costa’s central focus in no uncertain terms. Costa is the former Port Authority chief who was often in Brussels to find financing for the deep-sea container platform to be built in the Upper Adriatic.

“I’m not against the creation of new infrastructure projects, but I am against the creation of useless ones,” Musolino specified. He added: “From now until 2030, Venice and the other Adriatic ports will never move 6 million TEU, in fact probably less than half of that. And besides, no mega-ship will ever call at Venice or Trieste, because the large container carriers favour the transhipment ports.”

The absence of investors

According to Musolino there are no “investors interested in the Venice offshore platform project. No company that operates in container transport and no terminal operators. Building the entire infrastructural element would cost €2.1 billion, while the tenders for the design study cost over €3 million. “The plan will be completed by the end of the year, but I do not believe it will ever come to anything.”

The passenger resource

“Cruise passengers are a resource.” The president of the Port Authority has clear ideas about the presence of the passengers who disembark from cruise ships in the city. “They make up less than 10% of the total visitors to Venice every year,” Musolino said, “and tourists from the sea are certainly richer and more controlled than those who come by land.” In terms of the restrictions on large cruise ships in the Venetian Lagoon, the new Port Authority chief has started negotiations with the government to find a solution that will allow the city to “take full advantage of this business, while of course protecting the environment.” The port president added, “Those who believe that cruise passengers should come to a different port, do not have our city’s best interest in mind, nor in particular those of the 5,000 people who are employed in Venice thanks to this sector. And that’s not all: if Venice fails, the entire Italian cruise system fails, in the Adriatic in particular, let it be known.”

The concessions dossier

The Port Authority will have to decide about the renewal of the port concessions by 2023. These concessions could be renewed, but Musolino is not ruling out opening the doors to new investors. “It will very much depend on the industrial plans that are produced,” he explained, “although it is not my intention to throw out those who are currently doing business in the port. But it is clear that we are considering possible candidacies from operators who do not currently have a presence in our port and who could increase traffic.”

The commitment to Assoporti

Musolino emphasised, “Venice is one of the leading Italian ports that belongs to the association. I believe in the capability of its new President Zeno D’Agostino, and I am convinced that an association that represents Italian ports can succeed in its purpose of bringing new investors to Italian ports. If it seemed to me that it was pointless for us to be Assoporti members, I would leave immediately.” The president of the port of Venice has also decided to join ALIS (the Logistical Association for Sustainable Intermodality), which is led by shipowner Guido Grimaldi. He specified, “I do not believe there is anything wrong with it, given that my membership is personal and not in the name of the Port System Authority of the Northern Adriatic Sea.”

The Venice Model

Development and innovation are the guidelines with which the new Port Authority chief intends to govern the port for the next four years. The president said, “At least for a term, although I wouldn’t mind staying for a total of eight years.” Musolino, who is 39 years old and a maritime lawyer with many years of experience in Asian markets, decided to return to his native city after having left it to pursue his career. He concluded, “I accepted this challenge, convinced that Venice and its port hadn’t yet met their potential. But those who have already started to flatter me are taking things too far: I have been president for less than 100 days, give me a few months yet.”