Pietro Spirito: “Naples has wasted ten years”

Naples - With the appointment of Francesco Messineo as General Secretary, the Central Tyrrhenian Port System Authority is the first of the new authorities to have completed its appointments. A good start, but what’s next? We put the question to Port System Authority President Pietro Spirito.

Naples - With the appointment of Francesco Messineo as General Secretary, the Central Tyrrhenian Port System Authority is the first of the new authorities to have completed its appointments. A good start, but what’s next? We put the question to Port System Authority President Pietro Spirito. “We must make up for the ten years of slowdowns and standstills. This inactivity born of unstable governance made it impossible to undertake major strategic actions. The medium and long term programmes were neglected, while short term actions were contradictory and uncertain. This is how Naples missed opportunities, and it is inevitable that the port has now fallen behind its competitors.”

In your opinion, do the appointments that have been made so far (and I am not only referring to the Port System Authority of the Central Tyrrhenian) meet the criteria established by law?

“The new governance of the Port System Authorities will inevitably take some time to settle in, as happens with every reform. Not all the institutions have understood the role of the Management Committee, which should be made up of professionals who have the same qualifications and experience specified by the law for the President. We must interpret not only the textual meaning of the regulations, but also the spirit of the change. Italian ports must act as a system, they cannot continue to practice intra-national competition, but rather must project themselves into a globally competitive scene by establishing hierarchies and rankings within a strategy for the country as a whole.”

It seems that you are working very hard on the opening of the Molo San Vincenzo wharf. Do you think that this will be a good year?

“As always happens with matters that drag on for decades, one must have a pragmatic attitude that moulds a situation in transformation through the following steps. The reopening and conversion of the Molo San Vincenzo can be achieved through progressive functional phases. In 2017, the objective of allowing access by the public must be achieved by summer; then, a tender must be held for the project’s financing that will be essential to make the facility a place for high-value-added services; finally, its maritime use must also take shape.

What is your idea about the waterfront and where do you plan to start?

“The city has been kicking around the idea of a new waterfront for ten years, and the Port Authority held an international competition that produced a high-level definitive design by first-rate architects. Now is the time to make decisions. Piazza del Municipio, which is opposite the Molo Beverello wharf, is being prepared to be reopened in its new form, with the completion of the work on the metro. The port cannot miss this opportunity. Precisely for this reason, the first phase will be to define the executive plan, and to launch the competition for the new Molo Beverello and the old Magazzini Generali Warehouses. This is why we are meeting with Superintendent Garella and with the City of Naples.”

Naples is a tough city and the port is no less difficult: how will you be able to establish order among your quarrelsome employees who are certainly not united, on one hand, and the individualist entrepreneurs in the port, who are unable to work together and have only voted to defend their own pieces of the pie for years and years?

“My employees must return to doing their duty, without argument. I have been clear about this. Behaviour other than a high sense of responsibility, propriety and transparency that should characterise the institution will not be tolerated. My decisions will be made with these goals in mind. The entrepreneurs in our port system must decide whether they want to make lawsuits their core business, or whether they want to focus on the issue of growth. For my part, I will follow their strategic decisions, adjusting my actions to their decisions.”

This proposal has already caused disputes between the ship repair businesses and the shipbuilding entrepreneurs: how will it be settled?

“I have started a regular meeting on the subject, to review the plan for the reorganisation of shipbuilding, on which work stopped in 2001, since the market and infrastructural situations have radically changed since then. If we can establish convergence along the programme guidelines that I have defined, then we will all have the possibility of planning our future in terms of growth and sustainability. On the other hand, if we continue to have fruitless debates, I will assume the responsibility that is within the scope of the Authority, and I will take action accordingly. I prefer the route of coordination among all the actors, but I will not accept inaction!”

You present yourself as a very determined personality, and to make yourself understood you have already taken action on the issuance of access permits to the port, you have abolished the shuttle between the Beverello Wharf and Calata Porta di Massa, making enemies of the shipowners of the Del Golfo Terminal and the islands’ mayors. Do you intend to continue straight ahead on this path, or will you be devoured by compromises?

“Compromises are not helpful to anyone, especially when one is coming out of a long period of stagnation. But it is essential to listen and pay attention to the issues that are raised by the community of actors who are present in the port system. Once you have heard everyone’s opinion, it is time to make decisions. I will make the decisions that are within my role without hesitation.”

Many say that you have started out by taking action on simple things to send a message about your determination, but that the problems in the port are of quite a different order: the dredging, the eastern wharf, the concessions, the relocation of the oil tankers. How do you respond to that?

“In life it is always necessary to prioritise one’s actions. The facts should speak for themselves. It is obvious that at the beginning one takes action on issues that will send an immediate signal and in which your decision is visible. But this does not mean that you are not working on the medium-term horizon at the same time. The tenders for the dredging are in progress: by 16 February the participating companies should submit their technical proposals and economic offering. At the beginning of February, together with the Management Committee, I will approve the Authority’s operational plan, which I will submit to the Minister. I don’t have the least intention of overlooking strategic issues, which must be framed in a medium-term horizon and in coherence with the actions to be taken. Then it is necessary to clear away all the useless questions on which the debate has focused in years past. Let’s take the issue of the relocation of the Petrol Wharf. Until it is clear what the detailed plan for the relocation will be, with all the city planning and economic analyses tools that are required, the operators will stay right where they are. Allowing a debate about a distribution network that is supposed to be consistent with the national energy plan can only lead to abstract arguments about hypotheses that are completely unfounded. In short, clearing away all the abstract issues from the field is essential to an effective approach to the issues that really must be on the decision-making agenda. It happens with every project, one must establish the conditions for economic sustainability. We will evaluate the initiative within these boundaries, and in dialogue with the City of Naples and the city’s cultural institutions.”

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