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“Bari and Brindisi are East Asia’s first ports of call in the EU” / INTERVIEW

“We believe that the Authority must support the traffic that suits each port’s specialisations. According to the scenarios we have studied, we know that the terminals of the Southern Adriatic can increase trade of goods with the Balkans and with the so-called MENA countries (editor’s note: Middle East and North Africa).”

The ports of Bari and Brindisi are putting themselves forward as privileged terminals for goods arriving into Italy and the European Union from the East. Particularly for goods that arrive via what is called the Ignazia motorway between Alexandroupoli and Igoumenitsa, the last mile of the colossal network that China wants to build between Europe and the Far East via the Balkan Peninsula, the New Silk Road.

The port reform of 2016 joined the ports of Bari and Brindisi under the Port System Authority of the Southern Adriatic Sea, whose president is Ugo Patroni Griffi.

What are the Port System Authority’s objectives?

“We believe that the Authority must support the traffic that suits each port’s specialisations. According to the scenarios we have studied, we know that the terminals of the Southern Adriatic can increase trade of goods with the Balkans and with the so-called MENA countries (editor’s note: Middle East and North Africa). The ports of Bari and Brindisi are the first points of call for goods entering the European Union. Statistical analysis also shows double-digit growth in traffic of wheeled cargo, as well as unaccompanied trailers.”

Where is this traffic coming from?

“The main traffic prospects are through our partner ports, such as Igoumenitsa, the node on the Ignazia motorway out of Alexandroupoli. Over the next decade, traffic on this route will increase significantly. That motorway not only serves Greece, but also collects goods coming from Bulgaria and by land from Turkey. To this must be added the intensification of new traffic coming from Turkey by sea, which is growing at a rate of 30% per annum. In addition, Turkish operators are working on the assumption that there will be collaboration with other carriers on intermodal routes. For example, ships sail from Turkey to Patras, where wheeled cargo continues on to Bari on Grimaldi’s ships. We have also made collaboration agreements with the ports of the Southern Tyrrhenian Sea to send goods on to Spain, France and Morocco via the trans-Apennine corridors.”

What do these agreements specify?

“Today the corridors are traversed by road traffic, but in the future freight will also travel by train, with the completion of the Bari-Naples rail line. We are also interested in the Adriatic corridor, especially when the railway tunnels have been upgraded to accommodate the tallest loads. It has been announced that work will be complete by 3 December.”

What is the image of the Southern Adriatic ports abroad?

“At the recent Logitrans event, we noticed that Bari and Brindisi are on the maps of all the intermodal operators. U.N. Ro-Ro, for example, which was recently acquired by the Danish company DFDS, promotes lines to southern Italy, both for final destination cargo and for cargo in transit to Spain or Portugal. Then there are the rail services to northern Italy and to Europe generally - also from Germany to the United Kingdom - offered by companies such as Hupac, Mercitalia, and CTS, which are already in operation.”

What investments does the Authority have planned?

“There is a great deal of expectation about the SEZs, which can attract investments from logistics companies and which also host closed customs areas. We have asked the ministry to create a customs area within Brindisi’s cargo storage area, where there is much land available. And we are investing in maintenance, also in technological infrastructure, because the priority is to keep the existing one efficient. We have a Port Community System, “Gaia”, which is now state-of-the-art. We are experimenting with integrating the customs computer system and we are testing the introduction of the 5G telephone network. We believe that the digitization of administrative procedures makes a port competitive.”

And what about physical infrastructure?

“In Bari, we untangled the administrative problem that was holding back the start of the Marisabella landfill, 300,000sqm that will be used for wheeled cargo, so that they do not interfere with the activities of the industrial port. We are investing in cruise infrastructure in Brindisi. We have shovel-ready construction projects (worth €60 million) for the infrastructure of the System Authority’s five ports and for the dredging that will increase the draft at the port of Bari to 13m.”

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