“Encouraging signs for freight traffic in Italy” / INTERVIEW

Genoa - In 2016 aerial and rail traffic did well, but maritime and road traffic slowed down.

Genoa - In 2016 aerial and rail traffic did well, but maritime and road traffic slowed down 2016 was a year of uncertainty for Italian freight and logistics companies, as the failure of Hanjin also made clear. On that occasion, Confetra, the confederation of Italian transport and freight forwarding companies, asked for the European Union to give a joint response, which wasn’t forthcoming. Every country created its own rules, leaving importers and forwarders in a state of panic for weeks. Despite the problems that have been repeated for some years, the latest Confetra press release on the economic situation for 2016 showed encouraging signs for the Italian freight sector, as the confederation’s president, Nereo Marcucci, explained.

“The recovery in the freight transportation sector,” Marcucci said, “continues slowly, but surely. For the third year in a row, the trend has shown traffic increasing in all modalities, even though only aerial is positioned at a decisively higher level than before the crisis in 2007.”

In particular, the growth in the aerial modality, which is at +7.4%, accelerated during the second half of the year, “which proves that the peak season generally takes place around the end of the year when the supply of goods increases for Christmas.” The figure was confirmed by the number of aerial shipments, which increased by +4.5% compared to +2.3% in the first semester.

Confetra has recorded a different trend in its road haulage area. Even though the year ended with overall growth (+4.4% in international full load, +4% in groupage and +2.6% in national traffic), this was due to the activity of the first half of the year, while recent months showed a slowdown compared to the previous period. Maritime transport is also slowing down compared to the pace of growth in the first six months of 2016, with the sole exception of the transhipment of containers, which, driven by the growth of Gioia Tauro, is showing an overall national result of +9%. For liquid bulk, the final figure of the year being slightly lower than 2015 (-0.4%) “seems more to reflect a figure associated with the turnover of the oil product convoys, rather than a true inversion of the trend.”

The press release instead pointed out the growth in rail transport, which has accelerated compared to the first semester, rising from +3.8% to +4.1%. The president pointed out, “it is a sign of the vitality of recovery in the sector, and also of the help that the government is showing that it wants to provide through the so called ‘iron cure’.” Performance in the courier sector was good, closing out the year at +3.5% in national deliveries and +6.5% in international deliveries, which is consistent with the trend in production to reduce the size of convoys and the popularity of ‘just in time’, not to mention the continuous growth of e-commerce. Moving from traffic volumes to revenue, “road haulage and the courier sector showed a recovery in line with that of the traffic, and seem finally to have left the crisis behind, while international shipments, in particular aerial and maritime shipments, continue to suffer mainly because of the decrease in freight rates.”

For the year in progress, doubts mainly come from the debate that is under way on the international level over the failure of many countries’ economies to recover ten years after the financial bubble popped, and from the temptation on the part of some governments to slow international commercial traffic, promoting national production. According to Marcucci, “despite the risks resulting from the establishment of protectionist policies that could slow down the global economy’s recovery, the expectations for traffic in 2017 are optimistic.” From the press release on the economic situation, it has emerged that over half of those interviewed (54.2%) are confident of growth, 43% think that traffic flows will be stable, while only 2.8% expect traffic to decrease. On the financial side, for companies that belong to Confetra, the insolvency-revenue ratio is improving (1% compared to 1.2% in the first half of the year), while collection times have become slightly longer, reaching 79.4 days compared to 78.5 days in the first six months of the year.

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