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More flexibility for the port authorities, less interference from the ministries

Rome - The Italian government is moving towards a revision of the port law, which will be in the pipeline starting in the fall, probably in September or October. The path is not easy: the ports and regions that have moved along with the Delrio reforms of 2016 may not be in such a hurry to change things

Rome - The Italian government is moving towards a revision of the port law, which will be in the pipeline starting in the fall, probably in September or October. Edoardo Rixi, Undersecretary of State for Transport, says: “Those who work in ports know that they have little room to manoeuvre: the Ministry often goes into minor matters, spending a considerable amount of time, accompanied by - at the very least - autonomous spending, with negative effects on all levels: the financing of the new Genoa dam threatens the ratio between deficit and gross domestic product, but at the same time I must admit that I am ashamed because in the distribution fund, Olbia benefits by only €225”.

Rumours of the direction in which the Rixi reform is moving are already circulating amongst the ports - the return of local authorities to the committees, more shared governance in the context of a joint public-private company, a certain amount of financial autonomy - but these are items that the undersecretary did not confirm: “Before saying, for example, whether mayors will be on port committees again, you must first hear what everyone has to say. I have to go to every port and understand the problem dock by dock. To listen not only to those 10 major companies that are making a splash in our ports today, but to everyone, because there is a wealth of experience and knowledge to be collected. In short, the revision will have to be written ’after due consideration’. And then of course I have my own ideas but having been on the side of those who challenged the previous reforms, I don’t want to be accused of not listening.”

Rixi’s theoretical approach would be to achieve a regulatory instrument capable of giving ports “flexibility” (decision-making and financial flexibility on dredging - which is a fundamental element of the strategy) what is needed to enhance the specificities of each individual port: “The simplest example is cruises: in the next few years, 104 vessels will come into service, and their positioning is decided years in advance. Do we want to lose this traffic because we do not have the facilities?” . The presupposition is therefore to start from the idea that ports are not all equal, “but must run at equal speed” focusing as much as possible on their strengths and being in a position to solve their problems, taking their local areas into consideration.

The path is not easy: if on the one hand, the Region of Liguria in September presents its own proposal for port autonomy (within the broader framework of negotiations with Minister of Regional Affairs Erika Stefani on regional autonomy) which is basically aligned with Rixi, the Ministry will have to deal with the ports and regions that have moved along with the Delrio reforms of 2016, and may not be in such a hurry to change things, as well as other ports which the reform never touched, such as Gioia Tauro, which suffers from serious structural problems now.

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