Genoa - The wave of ‘rationalisation’ that first hit the big shipping companies and then the terminals is now affecting the customs agents’ sector. “By 2020, the number [of customs agents] is expected to drop dramatically,” says Alessandro Laghezza leader of a customs agency group. “We estimate that the sector will lose 50% of the agencies currently in business.” The unprecedented forecast is partly shared by Claudio Melandri, the President of Agespedo: “It is true that the introduction of the new European Customs Code is changing the sector, but we can still guarantee professionalism and attention to our customers: we specialize in services that large groups cannot provide.” In 2020, the liberalization launched by the European Union will come into effect: a Rotterdam agency will be able to compete with one of Genoa and vice versa: “But I am convinced that it will take more than three years for the system to be homogeneous throughout Europe.” The clock, however, is ticking for all 1,800 Italian customs carriers, even the ones that have managed to keep up with the times. There are so many “veterans” in this trade: “Their replacement will not be easy,” says Melandri, “but some young people are still out there.” There are thousands of micro agencies and “their pulverization will be massive,” says Laghezza.
“For me the best solution is for large logistics and industrial groups to outsource, by locating professionals highly specialized in customs shipments able to provide services all over the country and engage in service contracts.” And the group that belongs to the entrepreneur from La Spezia, is fully prepared to do business this way. “For me, it is a bit premature to say that the solution is concentration,” Melandri says, “but certainly the new European code was not helpful in that respect. We have always done an important job: now anyone will be allowed to come here and work all the way from Rotterdam or Hamburg.” One other issue that according to Melandri needs to be addressed is that of tariffs: “There is a problem: tariffs must be profitable, as is the case for any other professional sector. Instead tariffs are dropping which I don’t think is right.” For Laghezza, however, the phenomenon is already in progress: “there is a great deal of absorption of small agencies and individual customs carriers by companies of national dimensions.” The landscape, however, leads Melandri to paint a rather painful final picture: “In Genoa there is a know-how that we risk losing.”