green and tech interviews

Cozzani: “Far East is fundamental to our ports” / INTERVIEW

GIP looks to the example of Northern Europe, focusing on quality and safety

GIP, a company that operates large container terminals in Livorno (Terminal Darsena Toscana) and Genoa (Sech), made an important decision in February 2017, moving from family management to management by major international investment funds. Luigi Negri’s shares have been transferred to the British and French funds Infracapital and Infravia. This change has opened up new perspectives, as explained by GIP’s marketing director, Massimiliano Cozzani. “Something that’s come with the arrival of the investment funds,” the manager explained, “has been the desire to make the two terminals speak with the same voice, when they previously had little dialogue with each other. We have created four common functions (marketing, finance, special projects, and procurement) on which a series of other working groups depend. The investment funds have a long term vision.”

What are the priorities?

“The new ownership is focusing a lot on safety, so much so that an internal campaign is about to be launched within the company to strengthen awareness of this issue, which was already central for the previous management. The campaign has been entrusted to an outside agency. For shareholders, safety is essential, perhaps also because of their insurance background. With respect to this objective, they are not even distracted by performance concerns. Safety was already in the foreground during the two open days we had at the Genoa terminal in May, and at the Livorno terminal last September.”

European trade unions fear that the East Asian production model will also bring less attention to workers in Europe in the wake of China’s New Silk Road project. Are the terminals in Asia a model for you?

“Our models are the ports of northern Europe. East Asia is a variegated nebula, including South Korea, China and Taiwan. Their ports move large quantities of goods, but for us the point of reference is Europe’s Northern Range ports. We must be prepared in the best possible way, from a commercial and technical point of view, to accommodate all types of traffic. We look at best industry practices with the presumption that we are familiar with safety practices. We have already achieved record results in reducing accidents in the past. The TDT terminal was the first in Italy to have the AEO certificate, the Sech was the second. This certificate is a continuous stimulus to do better work.”

Has the new ownership of GIP changed the way work is done inside the terminals?

“The real change comes from choices by the clients, the shipping companies. We are living in a fluid situation, in a world where change is accelerating. The major alliances between shipping companies have changed relationships, which are now less filtered by local shipping agencies and more de-personalized. The number of clients has decreased and their size has increased, while small- and medium-sized companies are still there, but they are disappearing. The pressure from large companies is to obtain the best service at the lowest cost. We want to give the best service with the greatest degree of safety.”

Two important projects are being designed for Livorno and Genoa, respectively, the Darsena Europa and Calata Bettolo. In this somewhat fluid situation, does your interest in those projects remain the same?

“Our shareholders are interested. The timeframes for the Darsena Europa have become more certain, and TDT wants to participate in this project, which it sees as its natural future. In Genoa this summer, the Consorzio Bettolo, of which GIP is a member, signed the concession for what will be Calata Bettolo. We are waiting for the preparatory work to be completed, with the strengthening of the docks and the installation of mooring bollards suitable for the latest generation of ships. It will still be a few more years before the first ship arrives though.”

More land area available means it will be necessary to develop more traffic, which today is mainly produced by East Asia. How do you rate China’s New Silk Road project (BRI or Belt and Road Initiative)?

“At this time, because of the changing strategies of the alliances, we are not hosting services to and from East Asia, but they will soon return. Bettolo was born precisely for this type of traffic. As far as the BRI initiative is concerned, China’s underlying strategy is not clear. The aim is to facilitate the transport of Chinese goods by land and sea, but it is up to us operators to channel those flows within the strategies that the European Union is pursuing. I am thinking of the Trans-European Corridors that China has so far taken action for transhipment traffic, as at Piraeus, while Genoa and Livorno, on the contrary, are gateway ports, which, when they are equipped with adequate infrastructure, will be able to contend for the freight that currently travels to the northern European ports.