Is this a sign of a silent rivalry involving the ports of Marseilles and Genoa for the control of the maritime traffic in the Mediterranean? the sustained efforts made by the Italian ports towards its southern neighbors and especially the Maghreb suggest that in this logic, Genoa engages under full sail by involving in its quest Liguria with both its ports of Savona and La Spezia, with all of them forming the main hub of ports in the Mediterranean basin with 150 km of coastline.
The presidents of the port authorities of these three ports came to Tunis to plead the benefit of promoting and developing maritime transport between the two countries and laying the foundations for a logistic and economic integration in the Mediterranean space.
This was during a Tunisian-Italian business commercial and partnership day, held on Wednesday in Tunis, at the initiative of the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade, in collaboration with the Office of Merchant Marine and Ports (OMMP).
The first concrete expression of this partnership was the signing, on this occasion, af a Memorandum of Understanding on sea highway between the port of Rades and the port of Genoa. This agreement will help identify joint projects and exchange best practices between the two ports in order to boost trade, streamline the flow of goods between the two sides and establish electronic information exchanges between the two platforms.
The purpose is to shorten time, curb costs, improve service quality, make the supply chain more secure, ensure harmony of operations between the two countries and integrate the transportation, intermodal and logistics networks.
Logically, once achieved, this goal would be beneficial for trade exchanges between Italy and Tunisia which are made, essentially, by sea, and weigh 9 billion dinars per year, making Italy the second largest trading partner of Tunisia.
Moreover, Tunisia seems committed to developing this port partnership which would ease access to countries of Central Europe and the Balkans with which it plans to intensify trade and relevant exchanges.
Accordingly, each others find it advantageous to integrate their maritime routes and logistics. Worth reminding that a few months ago, a delegation from the Port Authority of Genoa, led by its president, Luigi Merlo, visited Tunisia and met with the management of the Tunisian shipping company “Cotunav” for talks aimed to strengthen cooperation in matters of trade between the two ports. To increase freight traffic, already up 40%, and passenger traffic, which is also growing steadily, the meeting examined plans of “Cotunav” in matters of equipment and armament of several of its ships.
In the same context, the Port of La Spezia had hosted in July 2010, delegations of its counterparts from Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, and Algeria to develop the framework for cooperation between ports of Liguria and those of North Africa. Officials present argued that strengthening trade between ports on both shores of the Mediterranean would improve the competitiveness of each, more than exacerbating competition. La Spezia and Liguria plan to position themselves as gateways from Europe to North Africa.
Indeed, and to this end, among other things, they have consistently joined their forces with Genoa to act as a single port and logistic system to respond effectively to market demands and ensure optimal quality of operations for the transportation of goods, thanks to continued collaboration on issues of port organization, rail transport, relations with the hinterland and international development.
Thus, in recent years, the ports of Liguria have become a landmark for the biggest international companies specialized in the management of port terminals and for the most important global shipping groups.
The ports of Savona, Genoa and La Spezia are now multi-purpose stops with about 50 private terminals, equipped for hosting every type of ship and cargo. This resulted in a steady growth of traffic, with overall handling that affected an annual average of 91 million tons of cargo and 3 million TEUs.
In their arguments to their southern neighbors, officials from the port hub of liguria attribute the “significant progress” made by the system of logistics and transportation infrastructure to the development of the port services and the liberalization of rail service on the Italian network, which have allowed the port authorities of Liguria to link effectively stops to internal market through specialized rail services.
Most importantly, they highlight the geographical location of Liguria in the heart of Europe, its developed port terminals and ground transportation services through which it is possible to serve a vast hinterland that stretches from the center to the south of Europe, supporting the competitiveness of markets served by the ports of northern Europe, element inconceivable until recent years.