COVID-19. Aid only for air transport. Assarmatori: “The government forgets the sea”

The accusations of the Association on the absence of support measures for the maritime sector

The government has decided to save air transport and sink maritime transport, assuming a serious responsibility in a country in the center of the Mediterranean, where one sixth of the population lives on islands and 90% of the production of goods depends on maritime transport for supply of raw materials or for the distribution of the finished product.

In the latest version of the Relaunch Decree, in fact, art. 201 provides for a fund of 150 million for the compensation of damages suffered by national airlines due to the reduction in the number of passengers transported during the emergency phase by Coronavirus and art. 206 provides for a fund of € 3 billion envisaged for the creation of a new flag carrier. However, no compensation or aid has been provided for shipping companies, which are still unable to take passengers on board, except for the suspension of the anchorage tax. Other than supporting maritime activities and preventing the collapse of a strategic sector of the national economy and the immediate cancellation of thousands of jobs, as the Government had assured it would do.

To launch the alarm again is ASSARMATORI, who denounces that “the gravity of the situation has not been fully understood, given that after more than two months of lockdown the maritime cluster, a fundamental component of the logistic chain that keeps the country up, is at the end for the consequences of the pandemic “. At stake is not only the fate of shipowners who guarantee a network of essential connections, but also thousands of jobs for Italian seafarers.

The cruise industry, which according to forecasts at the end of 2019 this year should have started to overcome all previous records, with over 13 million passengers in Italy, including boarding, disembarking and transit, is entirely at a standstill. And in Italy the situation is even more serious because the companies that have insured these volumes so far (and 80% are international companies), not only have to face the difficulties of returning seafarers to their countries of origin for the prohibitions placed by the various governments (150,000 seafarers blocked on ships for this reason worldwide), but they cannot even dock in Italian ports to put ships in disarmament, due to an inexplicable blockade imposed by emergency decrees. A choice as short-sighted as it is self-destructive: to keep away at such a critical moment those who have guaranteed the most consistent growth in tourism revenues in recent years is certainly not proof of farsightedness.

It does not go better for the national cabotage of freight and passengers transport: the ferries that connect the main national ports and in particular the major and minor islands and the ships engaged on the Motorways of the Sea, continue to travel to allow the transport of goods, essential for supplies and to ensure the continuation of vital economic and industrial activities, but the substantial costs of these services, essential for the country, are not minimally offset by revenues, since the passenger traffic component is completely missing. And the prospect of having to travel at 50-60% (and perhaps even less) of the availability of seats even after the end of the lockdown, in order to guarantee the physical distancing that rightly must remain in force until the complete eradication of the pandemic and for which the shipowners have already adopted all the protocols, does not suggest any improvement. Analyses carried out by the shipping companies, show in fact, that while the revenues will drop by more than half (the current drop is over 90%) fixed and variable costs will only drop by a quarter or a little more, conditions which will make it impossible for assuming business continuity. All the more so if even for shipping companies, as for other “capital and labor intensive” companies, access to liquidity with public guarantees remains at the moment only an illusion.

As for international container and bulk traffic, ships continue to be slowed down by the various and often conflicting containment measures decided by the various national authorities and numerous other countries. As a result, the drop in activity in Italian ports exceeds 30%, but forecasts are for further deterioration in the foreseeable future.

To cope with this situation of real disaster ASSARMATORI, together with Conftrasporto to which it adheres and the other associations of the cluster, has asked for specific support measures for companies and workers similar to those envisaged for air transport since the first Italian Care Decree in mid-March. “Measures that will help the entire maritime and passenger transport system in particular, to guarantee the largest island population in Europe. But so far, beyond reassurances and commitments, nothing concrete has been seen. And time is running out, pushing the boundaries of a systemic crisis which, for a country so clearly dependent on maritime transport, is destined to take on the characteristics of a real collective suicide “.