Mission accomplished. The North Tyrrhenian ports closed 2021 by hitting their target of substantially getting back to 2019 pre-pandemic levels.
Livorno, Piombino and the Elban ports have in fact totaled 41.2 million tonnes of goods, a 10% increase on 2020.
If we examine the turnover of each port, we find that Livorno handled a total of 34.3 million tonnes of goods, recording an 8.1% increase on 2020, and gradually approaching the levels of 2019, with just over 2.3 million tonnes of goods less (6.5% of the total).
In terms of container traffic, 791 thousand twenty-foot boxes (TEUs) were handled, an increase of 10.5% over 2020 and +0.2% over 2019. Compared to the 2020 figures, there was an increase in both imported containers (390 thousand TEUs, +10.2%) and exported containers (400 thousand TEUs, +10.8%). The upturn recorded this year is exclusively due to the performance of traffic from/to the hinterland (up 14.3%). Transshipment traffic was stable in 2021 (up 0.7%), reducing its percentage share to 25.6% of total port throughput (28.3% in 2020).
Excluding transhipment, there were 433,759 full containers (up 10.3% on 2020) and 153,280 empty containers (up 27.5%). Full container exports performed excellently (+18.5%), while imports were slightly down (-1.2%).
Ro-Ro traffic was also good. The port almost reached pre-Covid levels, closing the year with a turnover of almost 510 thousand vehicles, just 8.8 thousand units less than in 2019 (-1.7%). However, an 8.7% increase on 2020 was recorded.
In terms of forest products (another of the port’s core businesses due to its proximity to the paper mills in Lucca), Livorno was up on both years:+7.5% on 2020 and +8.7% on 2019. A total of 1.78 million tonnes of cellulose were handled as break bulk.
As far as new cars are concerned, the port handled 467 thousand vehicles between January and December. The traffic levels of 2020, have been abundantly exceeded, with an +8.6% increase. Not those of 2019, the year in which over 640,000 vehicles were exported and imported (-27.1%). However, in 2021, car manufacturers already adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, also faced shortages of component parts.
On the passenger front, the port closed the year with cruise traffic up 190.7% on 2020 and down 93.2% on 2019. A total of 56.3 thousand cruise passengers called at Livorno. Ferry passengers totaled 2.2 million, up 40.5% over 2020 and down 18.6% over 2019.
Rail traffic also registered good results: with almost 35,643 freight cars handled in the port (+20.3% on 2020) and 45 thousand in the surrounding regional area (+17.6% on 2020). These figures were close to pre-pandemic volumes in 2019 when 35 thousand freight cars were handled in the port and 45 thousand in the surrounding regional area.
On the contrary, unlike the port of Livorno, the port of Piombino still appears to be lagging behind pre-Covid volumes. Last year, 4.2 million tonnes of cargo were handled i.e +13.7% on 2020 and – 22.6% on 2019.
Ro-Ro traffic was up by 7.6% on 2020, to 82,129 vehicles imported and exported, but it is still below 2019 figures (-16.6%), when nearly 99 thousand commercial vehicles were handled.
Likewise, ferry and cruise traffic continues to be down compared to 2019. The pandemic crisis has had a devastating impact on these sectors, affecting all Italian ports without exception.
Overall, almost 2.9 million passengers transited along Piombino’s piers (+28.6% on 2020 and -10% on 2019). There were just over 1700 cruise passengers. This figure represents a 100% increase on the 2020 net zero. However, it’s still a long way from 2019 levels at -92,9% less.
The only traffic to register a two-fold increase, +34.2% over 2020 and +6.4% over 2019, is private vehicles driven by passengers boarding ferries. Overall, nearly 957,000 vehicles passed through the port.
Nearly 11 thousand rail cars were handled in 2021 (+1.4% over 2020), although still down from 2019 volumes.
The ports of Elba (Rio Marina, Portoferraio and Cavo) closed the year with a turnover of 2.7 million tonnes of goods, marking a 26.2% increase on 2020.
A total of over 80 thousand ro-ro units were handled (+8.1% on 2020). Compared to 2019 and pre-pandemic levels, a downturn of over 15,000 was recorded.
Ferry traffic was up 28.3% on 2020, to 2.7 million passengers while cruise traffic recorded a 900% increase on 2020: 1064 passengers were embarked and disembarked over the 12- month period.
President Guerrieri’s view
“2021 has proven to be a year in which the North Tyrrhenian ports have made a clear recovery,” said the President of the Port Network Authority, Luciano Guerrieri.
“Not only did we perform better than we did in 2020, as was largely expected, but we also came close to the 2019 levels, in some cases exceeding them,” he added.
“In Livorno the recovery already began some time ago. Containers were even up on pre-covid levels, while ro-ro traffici is close to reaching the target. Piombino and Elba ports are struggling more, but I am convinced that the situation will gradually improve as passenger traffic continues to recover. Furthermore, as far as the intermodal sector is concerned, the over 5,500 trains generated by Livorno and Piombino put our port network among the top Italian ports of call, which demonstrates that our improvments to our railways are going in the right direction.”
Translation by Giles Foster