Genoa - A few days ago an international shipping company published an ad in Secolo XIX in which it announced that it is looking for “companies interested in forming a group in order to gain more contractual power with land-sea based carriers and/or optimize logistics. No mergers or consolidations are required, current structure will be maintained.” What follows is a generic e-mail address, because confidentiality and professionalism are essential in the transaction. “You see,” the owner explains, “it’s a bit like milk: the small, neighbourhood shop down the road can sell at a certain price, but the supermarket can bargain and achieve a lower price. And in the end the local shop will also buy its milk from the supermarket. We are the small shop, and with our suppliers, that is, the shipowners and carriers on whose units we load the shipments we handle for our customers, we have a much lower contractual power than the logistics multinationals. We are still here because being smaller, we provide better, non-standardized service, and for this reason we have customers who choose us. But if we were in a group, a complex of many small businesses, we could have the chance to act as a much more substantial entity, while maintaining the quality and direct relationship with our customers, which groups with a thousand phone lines cannot have.” There are hundreds of small sized freight forwarders (as defined in the announcement of the same company) in Genoa: they are often more similar to small professional firms than real companies, a collection of small offices (once called Scagni) that once upon a time animated the city’s historic centre. A world that after the war had to defend itself against the standardization brought on by containers, then between the 1970s and 1980s against the crisis in the ports, and more recently against the entry of the shipowners into land logistics, the creation of international transport giants and the mergers of shipping companies which created bigger and impersonal groups.