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AFRICA AND THE US ON THE DEVELOPMENT “ROAD MAP” FOR ITALIAN SHIP-OWNERS
Destination Africa: the Italian naval fleet has a new target of emerging economies. The “road map” drawn up by Italian ship-owners has identified Southern ports as the main strategic points for growth, closely followed by the Middle East, Northern Europe and the West Coast of the US. While large investors study the new commercial trade routes, the national mercantile fleet has already modernized obsolete vessels and rationalized costs through policies such as reducing navigation speed to save on fuel and redefining commissions to shipyards.
“In addition to keeping track of what is going on in Asian markets – clarifies Paolo D’Amico, President of Confitarma – Italian equippers have been following North African markets for some time, which are showing very positive signs of development in several sectors. The importance of the Mediterranean basin for Italy is confirmed by the trade figures with countries along the North African coast: 25 billion euros in exports and 39 billion in imports”.
Moreover, Italy is not starting from a privileged position: since the end of 2009 the mercantile fleet recorded growth of 8%, bringing it to a current 17 tonnes for 1,640 units. The latest statistics put the national maritime sector at twelfth place in the list of the most active countries in naval commerce – a considerable achievement considering that the naval sector remains in first place on a global basis: 60% of trade takes place by sea. On the international scene, Italy has confirmed its position at the top: the mercantile network holds 70 regular navigation routes distributing products all over the globe. Ships are mainly destined for auxiliary services, followed by mixed goods-passenger convoys and liquid or dry goods transporters. China holds the top position for international naval commercial distribution with 1,652 ships, followed by Greece (745 ships) and Japan (643 ships). Just like Italy, these countries are distinguished by their recent renovation of fleets and innovation. The plafond of 30,000 billion euros of investment provided by Italy supports a rigorous modernisation and implementation of advanced technology plan for the mercantile fleet.
Nonetheless, the economic crisis did not shake ship-owners who, even with austerity at its most rigorous, have managed to maintain employment levels stable. The real problem facing the sector remains the difficult relations with government institutions, causing a delay in updating infrastructures and the process of reducing bureaucratic procedures. “Italian ports – notes D’Amico bitterly – are penalised by inadequate legislation and poor financing, meaning that the centrality of our geographic position is not enough on its own to resolve problems, without adequate and competitive infrastructures”.