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Spirito: “Naples is finally ready to forge ahead” / INTERVIEW

Naples - “Talk is cheap, let the facts speak.” Dredging close to completion.

Naples - If, as anticipated, in the next few days the tender is announced for the project of the deepening of the seafloor, the dredging work in Naples harbour could begin in July, which, following years of special administration, could signal the port’s relaunch, or at least that of public works. Works to lower the seabed, then, but also rail connection works, along with other projects that have been at a standstill for years. “But enough talking,” warns Pietro Spirito, president of the Naples-Salerno Port System Authority, “facts should point the way, not pronouncements. If we are at a turning point, we’ll be the ones who determine it. Regarding the rail links, following the agreement on capacity with the Italian Rail network (RFI), we’ve finalized a letter of intent. In the next few days we will launch the request for tenders for rail links between the port of Naples and the Nola and Marcianise dry-ports. The tender will be awarded to the firm that wins the competition, and we hope that there will be the maximum number of links along the lines that the rail network has made available to the project. In the memorandum of understanding with RFI we’ve been assigned five return-runs per day, to be conducted at night due to noise-related problems. We will now open up this service to the market, and we’ll see how the railway companies perform: I’m hoping for the best.”

The integration of Naples-Salerno has begun, what are the initial steps?

“At Salerno the commissioner has been appointed, Francesco Messineo, who is also general secretary of the ADSP. This is the best guarantee to ensure a smooth transition to the amalgamation that will take place at the end of the year. We are starting to work together, while respecting financial and management autonomy.”

With the prosecutor still conducting an investigation within the ADSP, what’s the climate and how has it affected your operation?

“The work of the judiciary is valuable, and we are working together, according to our different roles, to improve the mechanisms of transparency and legality, that are the essential elements of all administrative conduct. Consequently, we will emerge stronger from the ordeal; ready to forge straight ahead along a path of appropriate and consistent parameters, considering the volume of investments that we must make in the coming years.”

Are you as optimistic as at the beginning of your mandate?

“I’m optimistic, because when there’s a push for change and innovation it’s a good idea to look ahead to the goals we want to achieve, and not to the quagmires of the past in which we were trapped.”

Logistics and Special Economic Zone status for Naples and Salerno: what does this mean for both ports, in terms of prospects and projects.

“Special economic zones (ZES) are formidable tools for attracting investment, and consequently for the relaunch of manufacturing and logistics. The fact that the government has assigned to the ports a pivotal role in the process is a wise decision, and will require responsibility and determination to move it from the design-phase to full implementation. On this we’re staking a decisive portion of our operational future. The ports of Naples and Salerno, which are slated for hosting one of the ZES spearheaded by the government, will be jointly managed. Now, we must wait for the government to do its part, which I believe consists, together with the Campania Region, in defining the exact area that will be the subject of the decree [for the creation of the special economic zone]. It is then up to the Minister of the South, Claudio De Vincenti, to work out an agreement with the Minister for Economic Development.”

According to a report issued by Srm, the port of Naples should have more modest ambitions, more akin to a feeder stop than a mega-shipping hub, at least in regards to container traffic. Is that because of the lack of clearance depth, or rather because of its closeness to such a dense urban centre?

“Let’s look at the concept of mega-ships. If we’re talking about the latest generation vessels, over 20,000 TEU, that’s not the market segment that would be consistent with the vocation of our ports or the size of our production system. We will never be a transhipment port system. But if we’re talking about ships from 14,000 to 16,000 TEU, that’s an achievable aim. So it’s not a question of scaling down or up [our ambitions]; we just have to find the right measure.”

Do you think Naples should strive to be more of a link between North Europe and North Africa?

“Yes, because those are vital links. But I’d like to also include our connections with the Americas, which play a major part in our export-import structure. And, last but not least, through connections with Piraeus, we will maintain a link with the Silk Road.”

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