Italy - Figures and references
The 2012 throughput figures for European ports, published by the EU’s statistics agency Eurostat, reveal that the biggest loser was Italy. The country’s port association Assoporti has contradicted the findings, as have the results of a new study.
There have been hefty reactions throughout the whole of the Italian peninsula to Eurostat European port figures for 2012, despite the fact that the numbers pertain to the last year but one. The bone of contention is a press release entitled «Activity in EU seaports». It was published by the European statistics office Eurostat in Luxembourg last March. The document shows that cargo volumes in twelve EU member states, including France and the United Kingdom, shrank between 2011 and 2012. The wording «in absolute terms, Italy registered the biggest decline (–23 million t)» has now triggered a nationwide wave of protests from the country’s port authorities, however.
Pasqualino Monti, the president of Assoporti, the Italian port association, commented on the Eurostat figures on behalf of his trade body. He stated that there were doubts about the topicality of the Eurostat figures, and pointed to his country’s container handling sector, which grew by 5.7% in 2013 compared to the preceding year.
Monti, who is the head of the port authority of Civitavecchia, Fiumicino and Gatea and who has represented the industry’s interests as the head of Assoporti since 2013, also denied that Italian ports are marginal. Many of the facilities have made huge investments in connections to the hinterland and in enlarging quays for ultra-large container vessels. Although bureaucratic hurdles need to be further lowered, the Eurostat study presented a «distorted» picture of Italian ports’ ability to compete, Monti said.
Figures in doubt
Luigi Merlo, the president of the Genoa port authority, said he was «baffled» by the volume figures that Eurostat published. The port of Genoa noted an all-time record of 2 million teu in its container handling sector in 2012. Genoa, however, ranked 16th in Eurostat’s table, with a throughput of only 1.5 million teu. Merlo said that this alone is a glaring discrepancy and puts all the figures in the statistics in question. Not one Italian port appears amongst the top ten European hubs.
Studying the La Spezia system
A recently-published study by Carlo Cattaneo University (abbreviated as LIUC) in La Spezia investigates how the port of La Spezia competes. The university, which was created in 1991 through a joint initiative of the Varese and Alto Milanese administrative districts, compiled the study together with a logistics research centre. Support was provided by 35 representatives from various forwarders, shippers (including Ikea and Benetton), shipping companies, terminals and customs authorities.
The cluster port model
The port of La Spezia – the study object – handled 1.3 million teu in 2013, or more than 21% of Italy’s container throughput. Its infrastructure was ranked fourth in the country in a survey of 103 Italian provinces that was undertaken by the Guglielmo Tagliacarne Institute.
The port’s systematic strength does not primarily rest on its location, equipment and its hinterland. It is rather based on a cluster model of port organisation. This means that La Spezia collaborates with rival companies in other sectors, to accelerate the flow of goods for all market participants and to ensure uniform quality standards.
Terminals that are operated by different companies cooperate together to ensure that operating cycles run according to industrial standards and the highest possible utilisation rates of static performance (such as in quay areas) and dynamic performance (employee productivity per hour, for example). The supporting software Navis was developed with Berkeley University (USA).
Indices for usage rate and handling
These measures show that the Tarros Group’s terminal, for example, lifts 140,000 teu a year on a 42,000 sqm site. Sequencing is necessary to achieve this, as the process of loading and discharging, storage and forwarding by freight railway and truck is controlled by a single source. Shipping company representatives, such as Lorenzo Bertolini from the United Arab Shipping Company, are in favour of the system because it accelerates handling speeds.
Several shippers, however, consider intermediate storage of their goods in a port as being more important than shorter stays for containers. The Santo Stefano di Magra dry port facility, which is not far away, is used to compensate for the lack of sufficient storage slots in the grounds of the port of La Spezia.
Collaboration in the port becomes particularly obvious with regard to the local marshalling railway, which belongs to ten parties. Ownership is split between the port authority (which possesses 20%), various terminals (28%) and Trenitalia, Serfer, Oceanogate and Sogemar, each of which have a 10% stake. Shipper, forwarder and shipping agency employees collaborate in the «Sistema Porto» enterprise, in order to ensure the provision of an efficient and comprehensive 24-hour service for documentation and customs clearance.
Eurostat has one assessment of container throughput in Italian ports, the subjects themselves another one.