WHAT IS your view of the situation after a year as president of the Port System Authority of the Western Ligurian Sea?
“When I arrived,” said Paolo Signorini, “as president of the ports of Genoa and Savona, I said that it would take a year to merge the two ports and implement the reform. That goal has been achieved. We have an organizational chart and an integrated balance sheet, we are hiring important people like the technical director and state property office director. The Authority is operational. The second goal was to resolve issues that were left pending by the previous management.”
What issues were those?
“The extension of concessions for three large terminals, the Ente Bacini tenders, Phase Motion Control’s application for a concession in the former Piaggio area, the arrangement of the new wharf with improvements to the entire yearly programme, the recognition of the state of the docks and the dredging in the port of Genoa. For Savona, the completion of the Vado Ligure platform, and the projects to improve the accessibility of the platform.”
How far along are you?
“By December, and therefore by the end of the year, we will have made significant progress on all of these points. In other words, we are counting on having the administrative documents, that is, depending on the case, the publication of the tenders or of an application, the signing of the extensions to concessions. And then it was a year in which we invested a lot of time traveling around the world to understand the necessary steps from the point of view of infrastructure, logistics, automation and major alliances, with the aim of integrating the entire top-to-bottom chain with the needs of owners, terminal operators, transport companies, in fact the whole industry, so that the port system of Genoa and Savona is actually the Southern access point for the Rhine-Alps corridor.”
What results have you achieved?
“I think that there is a great worldwide interest on the part of investment funds, shipowners and large terminal companies like PSA Singapore in investing in Genoa. There are major investments coming in.”
A re you referring to those that have already been announced, or are there new ones?
“I must maintain some confidentiality, because I am talking about what happens downstream from the Authority’s activity.”
But then you will be involved?
“No, not then. We are part of this discussion so that we can demonstrate what we are doing, otherwise these investments might not happen.”
What are they asking you for?
“We are being asked to guarantee accessibility on the ground, when the last mile of rail investments, the port railways, the freight villages, and the third tunnel will all be operating at full capacity, and when some investments in the waterways and port accessibility improvements will be made. They want to understand how the so-called intangible investments will proceed, the Port Community System, the national logistical platform, what services we will be able to provide, and at what rates. They are therefore asking for very particular things in order to be able to make their investments in freight villages, logistics and distribution.”
Do you have the impression that the port system authorities have more freedom to promote themselves commercially than the old port authorities?
“No, I wouldn’t say so. We are coping as best we can. We are at a total competitive disadvantage compared with other European and world ports. We have legal formulas, procedures and requirements that are completely incompatible with international competition.”
What would it take to complete the reform since in theory this is the direction things should be going?
“The transformation of the Authorities into public limited companies, the exemptions in terms of deadlines, the streamlining of procedures concerning public investment, from dredging to quays, the exemptions from the regulations on recruitment and promotional expenses. All this with some sort of regulation, because the Authorities remain public companies, with the State Auditors’ Office annually checking that public money has been properly spent. This is of course quite legitimate, it must be done, but not within the time frames and under the procedures that are currently in effect.”
What do you think of the Liguria Region’s request to have a greater say on Ligurian ports?
“I think that we have shared this path with Governor Toti and Minister Delrio. Steps forward have been taken by the reform, and there is an awareness that more needs to be done. Toti has raised the issue of taking these additional steps forward.”