FOR THE PORT of Livorno, freight traffic with the Mediterranean mainly equals wheeled freight. That Tuscan port is a leader in Italy for ro-ro, which accounts for 50 percent of its tonnage (2017 data). The Port Authority System of the Northern Tyrrhenian Sea, which brings together Livorno and Piombino, has seen ro-ro volumes rise compared to 2016, from 19.0 to 20.4 million tonnes (+7.4%) or, in terms of vehicle numbers, from 626,000 to 680,000 (+8.6%). Growth on the maritime shipping side must clearly be accompanied by growth on the tarmac.
The availability of space in the backport area, and the absence of mountains acting as barriers behind it, are unique advantages at Livorno, compared to nearby ports. And the Authority is focusing on just this, through its president Stefano Corsini, who is carrying forward the projects of his predecessor, Giuliano Gallanti. The volumes of wheeled cargo recorded, especially at the port of Livorno, point to a trend that in recent years has shown significantly better performance than that of other cargo categories, as 2017 data has confirmed. Corsini explains: “It’s not hard to account for this performance. First of all, the ports of this System have a strategic centrality due to an enviable geographic positioning; the logistics hub here, thanks to the port infrastructures, makes it an economic, commercial, and transport pivot at many levels: for shipping to the nearby islands (Tuscan archipelago, Sardinia), across borders, (Sardinia and Corsica), within the EU (Motorways of the Sea links with France and Spain), and at the Euro-Mediterranean level (MENA countries). In particular, it’s the short sea shipping links in the Mediterranean area that are mainly responsible for Livorno’s trading excellence; the port is in fact the main Italian ro-ro port, and the principal port for Continent-Sardinia shipping links, while Piombino is the closest mainland port to the islands of Corsica and Sardinia. The frequency and quality of their sea links gives our ports a substantial and unquestionable importance.
At present Livorno has ro-ro traffic links with Sardinia, Sicily, Corsica, Tunisia, Spain and with the islands of the Tuscan archipelago. Livorno is positioned to connect ten different ports through four different shipping companies that handle wheeled cargoes across six different routes within Italy and four international routes. Of these, over 50% handle freight exclusively, using ro-ro ships, while the remaining lines handle mixed goods and passengers (ro-pax services). So far, I’ve enumerated our port system’s strengths in such a crucial sector. Needless to say that we have great expectations for the so-called Marebonus incentive programme, to spur jointly sea transport and road haulage, and to succeed where the previous Ecobonus program failed. The impact of the former was rather limited, managing to divert just 5% of total road traffic, due either to the fragmented nature of road haulage companies, or to the inability of these to provide an integrated service.”
The sole director of RAM (Mediterranean Motorway Network), Ennio Cascetta, agrees on this point as well; in an article on the pages of the Authority’s magazine, “Port News”, he referred to a memorandum of understanding signed last year: “The port of Livorno has great potential. It holds the record in Italy for ro-ro traffic, with 13% of the country’s total, and 390,000 commercial vehicles carried in 2016. These potentials must be developed in an intermodal fashion. That was precisely the objective for the joint signing of the Memorandum of Understanding by Interporto Toscano Amerigo Vespucci (promoter of the initiative), RAM, Authority of the Port System of the Alto Tirreno, Tuscany Region, Veneto Region, Interporto Quadrante Europa of Verona, Interporto di Padova, and the Italian railway network (RFI). These entities will work together to elaborate a plan for the activation of a new intermodal service for freight carried over the land portion of the Motorways of the Sea, from Livorno port to the markets of North East Italy, and from there towards Central-Northern Europe.”