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Editor in chief: Angelo Scorza
03/09/18 10:41

Business buoyant as usual in Genoa

The Morandi motorway bridge collapse will not drop the port traffic

When an about 200 meters central section of the Morandi bridge in Genoa collapsed instantly during a heavy rain storm on 14 August, the first thought went obviously to the innocent 43 fatalities of this incredible tragedy; mostly citizens on their way to holidays and a few truck drivers.

After mourning at the poor victins, the Italian city – home to the most important Mediterranean port - realised how big can be the offence: in fact the 1967-built bridge used to run along 2.2 km across the Polcevera river as part of the A10 toll motorway, connecting the western part of the city (districts of Cornigliano and Prà-Voltri, where most of the port and industry activities are located) and the central part (the district of Sampierdarena, where the old commercial and passenger port is based). On that route, aside many citizens for their private mobility needs, as many as over 1,000 containers by truck per day were in transit; at present, the only alternative road link is one coastal crowded way, so that the worry on how to cope with a city almost ‘cut in two’ was tremendous.

Sampierdarena and Voltri port basins are straight linked to motorways respectively going to Milan and to Turin, and such trade routes are safe; so the main trouble is how to find a quick solution to replace the collapsed road antenna, since it will take at least 1 year to rebuild a new bridge.

Also, due to the collapse, a few railway lines under the bridge – those dedicated to container inland routing from the port - were crushed and thus left out of operation; it will take 3 weeks to restart it.

The Port Authority - which cautiously predicts to end this year with a small one figure traffic drop in the container throughput, thus interrupting a trend of growth that has lasted for many years up to 2.5 million Teus in 2017 - urged increased use of rail aside trucks to distribute boxes landed ashore.

However the reaction of both local authorities and transport operators was very strong and positive. In response to a request from Giovanni Toti, President of Liguria Region, whose capital city is Genoa, the Rome government declared a State of the Emergency due to last (at least) 12 months, and some 32 million euro were granted for urgent works of demolition and cleaning. The city will speed up a project to build a coastal road to connect Genoa airport Sestri toll gate on A10 motorway straight to Sampierdarena port area; it will take until middle September to complete this new track.

Port users (freight forwarders, road hauliers, ship agents) met and decided to keep terminals open on a 24 hour basis and to increase the carriage by trucks overnight, adding a second driver aboard.

International rail freight traffic is anyway fully operational, since long-haul trade is only managed by Voltri station (the terminal on Rhine-Alpine TEN-T Corridor No. 24 connecting Rotterdam to Genoa), not affected by the dramatic accident.

Indeed only shuttle container traffic via the so-called Submarine Line is halted; however Italian Railways (Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane) subsidiary RFI taking care of the network, conceded there are alternative routes to carry freight towards rest of Italy.

By their side all main shipping lines (Maersk, MSC, COSCO, Hapag-Lloyds etc.) confirmed they have no intention to drop any maritime loop calling at Genoa presently and therefore they will not deroute any traffic at close ports (such as Livorno, La Spezia or Savona).

The opportunity of starting an unprecedented coastal maritime feeder service by means of a 100-200 Teus containership shuttling eastward and back, as a box common carrier, is also under scrutiny by port users, although it seems that this operation cost would be certainly higher than by truck. The real problem is how to handle those 1,000 containers per day that have no more a bridge to pass by.

Angelo Scorza