Genoa - The sun is beating down hard on the cabs, and there’s the constant roar of truck traffic back and forth. The loads the trailers carry are containers, to or from the port. Riccardo Cosmelli is 58 years old and has been a truck driver since 1982. He points to his truck parked just meters from the port gate at Ponte Ethiopia. “Just look at that vehicle. Latest model, state-of-the-art,” he exclaims proudly. After all, to its driver the vehicle is something akin to a second home, maybe even more.
Trade unions Filt-Cgil, Fit-Cisl and Uiltrasporti have confirmed a road haulage strike for the freight sector from July 12 to the 14th. The protest is intended to shut down the port and paralyse the city and could stretch to July 17 should the associations of small and medium-sized companies in the sector confirm a stoppage for July 12 to the 17th.
Queues and long waits at the port terminals, lack of safety measures on the docks, lack of services, and lost earnings: these are the main reasons fuelling the protest by lorry drivers. “I’m unable to even make a dentist appointment. The grim reality is that we face up to five-hour delays, waiting to enter or leave the port. It’s like being in prison, stuck for entire days. Yet loading and unloading operations could be completed in much less time,” explains Cosmelli.
The hardships experienced by truck drivers have intensified with mega-carrier ships coming on the scene and berthing here, leading to increased traffic. The truck drivers are asking for more investment in the docks from the terminal operators and are pressuring the Port System Authority to make operators increase the resources available to the haulage sector. “If more staff were available for the checks, the situation would improve immediately”, says Pietro Saputo, who’s been driving his truck in and out of the port since 1992.
The terminal with the worst delays is the VTE at Pra’, ‘but the same issues plague the entire Genoese basin. Every day the port handles four thousand trucks. Road hauliers have reported on several occasions that the terminals are unsafe, and also of the lack of services. “We’re not asking for much, just a few equipped rest areas set up, where we could stop. There’s a lack of toilet facilities, this is not normal. Our job,” adds Saputo, “has become hell; we’re required to wait in line once we enter the port, but we’re workers too, like everyone else. We’ve got rights and needs.”
The climate on the docks is tense. Especially after a truck driver lost his life at the port last March. Eugenio Fata, 60, had climbed down from his truck to request information and was mowed down by a colleague who was backing up a tractor-trailer. Following the incident, a 24-hour strike by port workers and road haulage companies was called, and the port and the entire city was paralyzed for a whole day.
Earlier this month, a truck driver chased a port worker operating a forklift truck; when he was cornered the trucker proceeded to attack him, hitting him several times. The drivers have no dedicated rest area within the port. Once outside the gates, though, they get swallowed up in city traffic, for as soon as the port procedures are complete, hauliers just get going up towards the highway toll booths. “New infrastructures being planned, such as the Gronda bypass and the Third Pass, would alleviate the situation. But the root of the problem must be addressed on the docks,” concludes Saputo.