“At this moment it does not seem that those answers that the port cluster expects are coming from MIT (the Italian Ministry of Transport & Infrastructures). The weakness of the system and the fractures that have occurred in Assoporti (The Italian Port Association) are leading to a situation in which, in the midst of judicial inquiries and the absence of political choices, increasingly onerous roles are being entrusted to the Coast Guard. I doubt, however, that the military have the ambition to be port commissioners”.
Edoardo Rixi, national head of Transport and Infrastructures for the Lega Nord, considers all the indiscretions in the press that would attribute to the Government the intention of entrusting Harbour Offices with the supervision of Port Network Authorities as political fiction . He does not mince his words to describe the particularly critical moment that Italian ports are experiencing. “Since I left – accuses the former Deputy Minister of Transport – the port activity has come to a standstill. We have ended up in the quagmire of immobility. Not even one step forward has been made in terms of reforms which the country need s in order to relaunch its ports”.
That’s not all. “I know that the hypothesis, which I consider extremely negative, of dismembering the Ports Directorate-General is on the table: it would mean going against the trend with respect to the needs not only of the sector but also of the entire nation”. Rixi, on the other hand, believes that we should proceed in the opposite direction, that is, “to centralize in the MIT those competences that once belonged to the Ministry of the Merchant Navy and that today are distributed among the various ministries, from the Ministry of the Environment to the Ministry of Education and Economic Development. This is the only way we can make daily bureaucratic procedures more streamlined and rapid”.
More generally, a proper analysis of the critical points of the last port reform is required: “We had already developed ideas on the subject and the National Port Conference (organized in Rome for 11th and 12th June, and then postponed by the MIT to a later date following Mr. Rixi’s resignation) should have constituted, in this sense, the first strategic discussion table for lining up the problems, confronting each other and proposing common solutions”.
For Rixi, sharing is a fundamental issue: “Ideas come out of a careful analysis of the problems in each geographical area. No real reform can be launched and put into effect without the involvement of those directly concerned, i.e. the Port Authorities. Unfortunately, they preferred to postpone the Conference sine die: a great mistake damaging our domestic economy. We took advantage of a situation of uncertainty not to decide and keep the handbrake on.
In the meantime, the climate on the quayside is increasingly tense: amidst inspections and surveys, a large number of Port Network Authority presidents feel they’re under siege. Assoporti also faces an internal crisis that seriously threatens its very existence. “Both the judicial inquiries of the last few months and the internal ones conducted by the Ministry have contributed to sowing total distrust among the components of the port sector. And Assoporti, not being able to count on a constant and articulated interlocutor with the MIT, has gradually lost its function as a mediator, finding itself at the mercy of opposing individualisms”.
For Rixi, the Ministry in charge no longer has a vision for developing the port sector: “The last operation, setting up the Messina Strait Port Network Authority, was a complete failure: the presidents of the two regions concerned, Sicily and Calabria, learned of the appointment of the new president directly from the newspapers, without any prior involvement in the State-Regions Conference, which is explicitly required by law.
The Lega Nord representative asks for a decisive change of pace: “If we do not know how to rebuild the climate of trust that has been lost over the last few months, we will hardly be able to keep the sector together. As deputy minister, I had worked so that the port cluster, even if with the necessary distinctions, could reach a point of balance over some common themes. And I had succeeded. Now I’m just bitter about the time I lost and the work I threw away.
Translation by Giles Foster