Predecessor and successor
At the beginning of June Zeno D’Agostino, the president of Italy’s Port Network Authority of the Eastern Adriatic Sea, who has been in office since November 2016, was deposed. Mario Sommariva was appointed temporary managing commissioner in his place. In Trieste, the new (and now old) commissioner explained to ITJ reporter Kerstin Kloss why he was more than happy to relinquish his post again.
How do you explain the events in Trieste to foreign partners, Mr Sommariva?
Anac –the Autorità nazionale anticorruzione, our national anti-corruption autho- rity – misinterpreted a law on the compatibility of various public tasks. I want to make it clear that this had nothing to do with corruption at all, but was related exclusively to bureaucracy.
Zeno D’Agostino was the chairman of the entity Trieste Terminal Passeggeri, a cruise-terminal operator that manages cruise services in the gateway. The port authority owns 40% of the shares therein, but it has no power. Thus in our opinion this task wasn’t in conflict with his role as port president. Anac was of the opinion that he shouldn’t have been appointed port president. The strange thing is that he was appointed five years ago, but it only turned out to be relevant now, five months before Mr D’Agostino’s mandate was set to come to an end.
Can you explain why the port president had to leave his post now – in the midst of the downturn triggered by government measures to contain the outbreak of Covid-19, which was a particularly difficult period for Italy?
No, I can’t explain it at all, really; I’m just happy that we placed our faith in the country’s judiciary. An administrative court tried the case at the end of June and its verdict allowed Mr D’Agostino to return to his post.
Did you ever doubt his return?
We knew we’d win in court in the end. Both Mr D’Agostino personally as well as the port authority filed a lawsuit in the Rome administrative court. After the court suspended Anac’s decision, there were no more barriers to his return. We expected a verdict on 24 June; in the end the decision was taken on 30 June.
What was transport minister Paola de Micheli’s position?
She was clearly on our side from the very beginning. My interim appointment emphasised her great overall confidence in Mr D’Agostino’s work over the past five years. The measures she has taken show that she recognises his abilities, sincerity and vision.
Wouldn’t you, with your in-depth knowledge of the logistics sector, actually be the ideal new port president?
No, no, no! There’s no alternative to Mr D’Agostino. I’m the authority’s secretary general and, as its acting director, I was only in charge of maintaining port operations until Mr D’Agostino’s return. My personal role wasn’t all that important, really.
Zeno and I have a joint project to develop this port as well as the overall port compound. Our task is to create jobs and to innovate, for new oppor- tunities for young people. As long as I have enough strength and energy I’ll support this project. That’s all.
What key projects are in the pipeline for future implementation?
We’ve got three important infrastructure development projects on the table at the moment. The first one is to close the Arvedi Group’s Servola steel factory and to develop it into a container terminal, most likely. Secondly, the site of a former oil factory is set to be re-dedicated as a multipurpose terminal. And thirdly, the old port of Trieste will be used for cruise ships as soon as measures to contain the outbreak of Covid-19 end.
Did Mr D’Agostino’s temporary removal have any negative impact on Italy’s port system as a whole?
Yes, there was some negative fallout. The impact on Italy’s port system is that it’s difficult for us to explain to people observing the process from abroad what actually happened. That’s why every port in Italy supported us with its solidarity, including industry associations.
A short portrait of Mario Sommariva
63-year-old Genoa-born Mario Sommariva has more than 40 years of experience in shipping, ports and logistics. He has worked in various positions for the Filt Cgil transport union, amongst many other jobs.
Before becoming secretary general of the Port Network Authority of the Eastern Adriatic Sea in Trieste in 2015, he held a similar position in the port of Bari for eight years.