Genoa - “’I’m saddened and feeling bitter. This is not how I wanted my mandate to conclude.” Manuel Grimaldi has waited for two weeks before breaking his silence on the storm brewing over at Confitarma. “Should I reproach myself for anything I did? I never took part in any electoral group, neither in meetings, as usually occurred in the past,” explained the president of the Confederation to Secolo XIX-the MediTelegraph. “I believe that I had no way of preventing what happened; it came about as a result of the association’s charter and traditions. It was the outcome, let me be clear, of elective democracy.” Some of Italy’s shipowning heavy-weights have left Confitarma: the d’Amicos, Messinas, Italia Marittima, GNV. “I would like to point out that a confederation is free and independent, to use Paolo d’Amico’s words, when it is elective. The outcome that was not of the liking of some individuals, was ushered in by a democratic election, as has always been the case: covert deals or tendentious appointments have never been part of our history. That’s not how Confitarma works. Since I started participating in the life of the association, and it’s been now twenty-five years, its charter has always been respected, because there is no freer model. That said, I understand that some important colleagues may be in a sour mood, but I also believe that there are tools in place to remedy the situation that’s developed.”
“Selection, for example, may happen by co-opting. In the case of the Amico’s, very important appointments were on the table. Not only that: in my opinion, the famous letter signed by all the councillors had the same weight as an election. I don’t know of any other systems.”
But, as even that letter did not convince the d’Amicos to remain, obviously there is something that isn’t working. What’s going on inside?
“I do not know, I do not understand. If the idea is to create a “Confitarma 2”, well, it’s something that I would not recommend to anyone. It would not serve the shipowners’ interests nor the country. Confitarma must remain free, independent and unique. And everyone should be a part of it. The d’Amicos were offered high-ranking appointments of great prestige: but, clearly, now negotiations will have to be pursued by the next president. In my role, all I can do is ensure compliance with the rules. Take the case of the designated president: when the wise men tell me that they have heard everyone concerned, and that the associates’ selection is clear, what can I do, other than to take it into account? Every now and then I hear that someone puts out his own candidacy, maybe because a friend told him ‘You know what? You would make a really great president?”: well, that’s not the path to follow, we cannot allow it.”
We are talking about different situations and reactions. Stefano Messina told this newspaper that the MSC group’s entry into the company was a factor in his candidacy not working out.
“But it’s been explained to him that it is not so. This is a huge misunderstanding. I have great esteem and friendship for Gianluigi Aponte, and so does the overwhelming majority of Italian shipowners. Stefano considered it advisable not to put his candidacy forward at this stage of his business career, as has happened in the past to me. I’ll repeat it again: Messina was the most qualified to succeed me.”
Another problem raised by Messina was the advisability of having a spokesman for the tug sector as president of Confitarma.
“Another great easily resolved misunderstanding. For the past five presidencies, all questions related to port services within Confitarma have been handled by a highly prepared specialist, Gianpaolo Polichetti. I myself, who has been considered, much like Messina, a “hawk”, have always relied on his expertise. And, to complete the picture, the business related to harbour towing in Italy, for Mario Mattioli, represents at the most 10% of his turnover. Are not even these considerations enough to appease the agitation? I think for Mattioli it would not be a problem to handle intelligently the file on ports. Should he be elected, he’ll find a way.”
President, I’ll dispense with beating around the bush: there are many, even among your colleagues that contest you setting up Alis, the association of trucking and logistics. How much is that situation affecting the mood of the association’s members?
“But Alis has nothing to do with Confitarma! Maybe there’s a bit of envy, I can understand that. We’re talking about a huge project that has the advantage of bringing players and entrepreneurs in logistics together, while avoiding falling into a club mind-set. In Italy we have been accustomed to the “associations that are a part of another association” model. Enough, that’s the past: Alis responds to the needs of its members, who can get benefits and services, without the need for unnecessary intermediaries. It’s a revolution that scares many people.”
Let’s go back to Confitarma: it looks like you’re appealing to those who have headed for the exit. Do you think the crack can be fixed?
“I’m not negative, and I’m confident that finding a balance is possible. This is a sector of world-class excellence: us in short sea, Costa in cruises, the d’Amicos and many others. We are all aware of this. It’s no mystery, for example, that the associates would have welcomed a new chairmanship under Paolo d’Amico, who unfortunately didn’t confirm his willingness.”
Is that appeal also valid for the Messina family?
“Certainly. MSC’s entry may be a problem for one or two associates, but not for me. I can tell you that if commander Aponte was on the list of potential presidents I would vote for him immediately, that’s how much I hold him in esteem. With Stefano Messina there’s been a couple of misunderstandings, as well as with Maneschi. But some harmony can still be recovered. There must be just one single home for shipowners.”