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Ready for the New Reality

Ready for the New Reality


by La Spezia Container Terminal

Sometimes, it helps to adopt a different point of view — and this is not just a matter of perspective. This certainly applies to the transforming ports and logistics landscape in Europe. In the past, the route via a northern gateway on the continent was the most preferable way for many to get cargo from Asia/ India to Europe. The conditions in the Mediterranean did not live up to those of the bigger players up north. However, there are many paths that lead to Italy, especially Rome, which is increasingly geared up to establish itself as an alternative gateway for shipping goods to the continent.

The big three

The major ports of Rotterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg still lead the way in terms of container throughput by far. But at the same time, more and more shippers realise that sending their goods via Italy makes very good sense for a number of reasons: end-to-end cost effectiveness, and time-saving with lower transit times by avoiding peaks in demands resulting from over-challenged gateways that both natural elements of Mother Nature and container liner shipping inevitably create.

One company that has been a key driver for this development is Contship Italia Group. The company dates back to 1969 and has been a pioneer in Italy’s maritime landscape ever since. It offers a broad range of integrated intermodal logistic solutions and a network of maritime container terminals in Italy and Morocco.

The Group is part of the German Eurokai Group, one of the largest independent container terminal operators in Europe. This enables the player to draw upon a broad expertise of running terminals on a private basis and equips the Group’s business units with some distinctive advantages: less bureaucracy, virtually no issues with unions and thus smooth and effective terminal procedures.

The terminal with a difference

Its flagship terminal, performing the key role of a gateway and providing access to Italian markets, Southern Europe and beyond, is located at the Liguria port of La Spezia. The natural harbour connects to 42 Asían ports every week. Over 3.5 km of port roads and 17 km of rail tracks lead directly to the national road and rail networks, facilitating an efficient transfer from ship to shore to shippers’ final markets and vice versa. La Spezia catchment area accounts for 45 per cent of total Italian gross domestic production (34.4 mio tons of import and 20.5 mio tons of export).

From La Spezia, many boxes make their way to Melzo, an increasingly important logistics locality as regional distribution centres have long since migrated easterly from the city that is a suburb of Milan itself, the Italian economical capital, which serves as the heart of the Contship intermodal network. The key component of the “Southern Gateway” option connects maritime and inland terminals with the main markets of Italy, Central and Southern Europe. This is powered by so called “RAILability”, which leads to approximately 200 weekly train connections for a total rail share of 30 per cent.

The Rhine-Alps corridor, for example, is one of the busiest and most important European trade routes for freight transport. By connecting the North Sea ports with Ligurian hubs, it covers some of the most densely populated areas on the entire continent and features around 70 million inhabitants.

La Spezia is linked via Melzo to Switzerland, Germany and the Benelux serving some of the most important economic centres in western Europe. “This means that global shipping lines calling at La Spezia are able to serve multiple markets with a single call,” explains Mr Michael Cashman, Commercial Director Maritime Terminals at Contship.

Contship’s La Spezia Container Terminal has long since benefitted from the presence of ten out of fifteen global shipping lines using the gateway terminal processing containers in the Asia-Med supply chain and as recently announced, with ships and containers already en route from the region, are being joined by the remaining five, who will then provide a total of five calls per week offering Asian shippers a plethora of choices in terms of port pair combinations, transit times, days of the week and, more importantly, reliability in the supply chain. With the addition of the remaining major global shipping lines, the terminal now boasts all of the top 15 shipping lines in the Asia- Med trade in one single facility in an Italian port.

Getting Italy into the game

There has been plenty of discussions amongst the Italian maritime community during the past years about how to increase its international competitiveness. The Italian government is focused on raising the profile of infrastructure improvements as a way to achieve this goal.

This is why at the beginning of August, the Cabinet approved a new ports reform aiming at cutting bureaucracy stemming from a system regulated by a 1994 law. The two most significant impacts of the new ports reform are the decrease from 25 port authorities to 15 regional Port System Authorities together with the transformation of the former Port Committee into a lighter Management Committee.

The number of members nationwide is to be reduced from more than 330 to around 70. Furthermore, the new regulation will unite the entire administrative and customs port-related procedures in only two new single-window offices, further building on achievements already bearing fruit from the modernisation and full digitalisation of customs clearance processes (historically infamous for being inefficient), which have been recently upgraded to EU-wide standards. This latest implementation will further simplify and speed up procedures and thus facilitate trade. This applies to customs declarations, import/export applications, as well as other supporting documents, such as certificates of origin and trading invoices. As also reported by the latest Logistics Performance Index published by the World Bank, Italy is improving its logistics competitiveness when it comes to customs processes, ranking 26th in 2016 versus 29th in 2014 following the full digitalisation of customs process and the recent introduction of preclearing and fast customs corridors.

As the infrastructure in Italy is changing, the entire country becomes more competitive in an international environment. The majority of ports are just about entering into this new reality. However, Contship is already there.

Banking on opportunities

As of today, La Spezia and its users are realising substantial efficiency gains in the overall processing of containers, with many maximising the opportunities provided by pre-clearance procedures whilst still at sea. This one single change ensures time savings of between 48 and 60 hours, leading to reduced dwell that ultimately feeds into the bottomline cost of any supply chain.

Between January and June 2016 the amount of boxes that La Spezia seamlessly transferred from ship to rail in less than 24 hours stood at 14 per cent, whilst it handled 46 per cent in less than three days including weekends. “This obviously increases the potential to enlarge market penetration for shippers around the world,“ Mr Cashman points out.

And this development offering some great opportunities is not just a matter of perspective.

About the Author

La Spezia Container Terminal (LSCT) is Italy’s leading container terminal in terms of technology, efficiency, quality of services and innovation. Constant growth thanks to its geographical location, powerful intermodal links, operations know-how and management expertise makes LSCT the best gateway to Northern Italian and Central Europe markets.