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Venice bets on project cargo and river traffic / INTERVIEW

Interview with President Musolino. The Authority has entered into an agreement with Rfi.

TRAFFIC in the port of Venice remained stable during 2017 (25.1 million tonnes, -0.3%), but has seen growth in 2018 (+9.6%). The difference has been in solid and liquid bulk, which have shown signs of revival (+17.6% and +12.3% respectively in the first three months of 2018) after a decline last year (-3.8% and -2.4%). On the other hand, the boom in ro-ro traffic continued, with 2018 (+39.4%) maintaining the record levels of 2017 (1.5 million tonnes, +44.8%). The port’s weaker aspects are containers (611,000 TEUs, up 0.9% in 2017) and cruises (1.4 million, down 11% in 2017); although maritime tourists increased in the recent winter months, this will have little impact on the overall result.

For the Port System Authority of the Northern Adriatic Sea, led by Pino Musolino, the issues on the table in 2018 range from the consolidation of project cargo traffic (a niche enterprise, but one with high added value for the port) to the development of the new container terminal, from the agreement with RFI on the last mile to the port’s second wharf for Fusina’s ferries, from the application of the future government’s Cruise Committee’s decisions, to the development of river traffic, with the possible absorption of the port of Mantua under the direct management of the System Authority.

President Musolino explained, “We have had new ro-ro operators and are continuing with Ocean Alliance’s ocean line. In addition, the project cargo and industrial machinery traffic is shaping up. Most of this traffic is handled by the Multiservice terminal, to a lesser extent by TRI. The port of Venice is attractive for exceptional cargo because it can be reached from the Po Plain without any steep roads. The most comprehensive work we are doing as a port to accommodate these different sorts of traffic is improving nautical accessibility, both physically and with technology, to allow ships to come to port in foggy conditions and at night. We have set up some stations with electronic AIS systems that will make it possible for ships to access the port even in poor visibility conditions. This is how we are putting the port in a position to be more accessible.”

One of Musolino’s biggest bets is the Montesyndial container terminal. The terminal was created as a ground-based element of the offshore terminal planned by the previous president, Paolo Costa. Musolino has frozen the off-shore plan and the Montesyndial project has become an autonomous, final destination terminal, flanked by an integrated logistical platform, all on an area of 96 hectares. The president said, “We are waiting for the release of €55 million of funds from the CIPE, a decision that can also be taken by an outgoing government, because the funds are already in place, this isn’t a new thing. We insist that it comes as soon as the first CIPE is available.” The project is currently in the reclamation phase. Another key point is the framework agreement of 8 February with RFI for the construction of a rail link that bypasses the Mestre junction, separating freight from Montesyndial and Fusina from passengers arriving in Mestre by rail. As for Fusina, Musolino said, “the traffic is going well. The second wharf, which the concession holder was supposed to take charge of, must be completed. However, the holding company to which it belongs has had problems, and they were reluctant to allow the deadlines for the European funds we had obtained to expire. That is why we have started the design phase. Unfortunately, I found myself inheriting project financing that was ten years old. Like all Italian project financing, it’s a headache. We are working to ensure smooth operations and economic and financial equilibrium for this unusual project that the market is expecting. There are unique growth rates in ro-ro and major groups that want to get into the business.”

Meanwhile, the Authority is thinking about including the port of Mantua: “There is a need for a single leadership in terms of processes. And also because of the port of Chioggia, we must make the most of river traffic, both for cruises and for freight: a single barge takes 70 trucks off the roads.”