Coronavirus. Assarmatori: “An entire country’s shipping companies at risk”

The speech by the President of Assarmatori, Stefano Messina, published in the newspaper Milano Finanza

Dear Director,
As an attentive reader of MF-Milano Finanza, I greatly appreciated your Orsi & Tori published yesterday, Friday 13 March, especially when you outlined the need for two extraordinary Commissioners, one for “the increasingly important world of logistics related to production activities and supplies” and the other for a new industrial policy, capable of revitalizing the country in the spirit of a new Marshall Plan.

This is exactly what Italy needs, not only to overcome the serious emergency resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic but to transform this surreal situation into a new opportunity for the country. At the moment, national logistics are currently at risk of a dramatic standstill; in just over two months we have gone from promising growth estimates for the entire shipping sector, to the current devastating figures, particularly evident for passenger and cruise traffic and for the vital short-haul connections to and from the smaller islands (a sector that also acts as a public service and territorial continuity affected by a wave of cancellations–with cancellations between 60 to 80% of all bookings already made), but no less serious, even though still contained in the numbers, the repercussions on freight traffic. If in this sector the percentages are lower, it is only because in large part most of the ships that are currently making their way to Italian ports have left well before the emergency began, but the signs we are getting from all over the world are definitely worrying.

If we put together raw materials, semi-finished, processed and finished products, more than 60% of industrial production and national needs depend on maritime traffic, but in these days several countries have closed, and are still trying to close, their ports to ships coming from Italy; others, even if not formally arriving at such solutions, are making mooring impossible at their ports because they impose quarantine or other measures (formally in form preventive but in fact actually preventative). It has become impossible even to rotate the crews, international rules provide that a seafarer may not be engaged continuously over a certain number of days; once this limit is reached, a seafarer must be replaced, otherwise the minimum safety schedule is not respected and the ship is forced to stop. But if the country does not accept passengers from Italy (either by air or by ship), replacements cannot be made, with the consequences already described. Moreover, there are several ships from other countries which are deciding to skip Italian ports, in order not to risk being blocked when touching other nation’s ports or because they refuse to accept on board the pilots of Italian ports or the staff assigned to controls and navigation safety.

The number of these cases is multiplying every day and the risk is serious that we are heading towards a blockade of strategic supplies, starting with energy supplies. It is not only shipping companies that are at risk, but the whole country. This is why as President of Assarmatori (Member of Conftrasporto-Confcommercio) and together with my fellow Presidents of Confitarma and Federagenti, I have signed an appeal to the Government to take urgent measures so that Italy is not marginalized from the global supply routes and continues to be able to feed its excellent production capacity expressed by thousands of export-oriented companies, while at the same time allowing the shipping companies involved in this work to face the crisis and overcome it. An extraordinary Commissioner who is well aware of the importance of the game at stake and who supports the Government in its intensive work would be a great help. And it would also be crucial for the future, we hope very soon, in which we must work for the rebirth of the production system, of which logistics is the backbone.

With the usual esteem, I wish you and your colleagues good work.

Stefano Messina
President of Assarmatori

The article in today’s press review, 14/03/2020