International group LBH is ship agent of Arcelor Mittal in Taranto
The appointment concerns import traffics, which are the most significant: local operators protested and asked the institutions to intervene and persuade the steel and iron giant to change its strategy
The decision of the iron and steel giant Arcelor Mittal to entrust ship agency services related to its naval traffic in the port of Taranto to an international group triggered the immediate protest of local operators, which might lose a significant part of their traditional business.
In fact, the Luxembourg-based corporation, which took over former Ilva, appointed LBH Group – an international group specialized in shipping services – as ship agent for its ships calling at Taranto.
According to Ship2Shore (Arcelor Mittal's press office has not provided information yet), the agreement entered into between the two parties – already having existing relations in other ports – concerns import traffics. In order to handle freights arriving in Taranto, i.e. raw materials for the Puglia steelworks, Arcelor Mittal charters the necessary ships through specific chartering-desks in London and Antwerp. LBH will work as a ship agent for said units also in Taranto through its newly established branch LBH Italia, employing several professionals within the sector, “stolen” from other local agencies.
On the other hand, the agreement entered into with LBH does not concern export traffics from Taranto. However, this is not a significant business for the local ship agencies gathered in the Ionian Shipping Consortium, which relied on the significant traffics generated by former Ilva's plant in both directions.
In fact, as concerns exports, Arcelor Mittal is supported by several brokers which – according to the directives of the steel and iron giant headed by the Indian tycoon Lakshmi Mittal – will have to collaborate with ship agents within the Ionian consortium anyway.
According to the local press, the issue was discussed during a recent hearing of the IV Puglia Regional Council Committee, attended also by Federagenti Vice-president Vito Tororizzo and by local Propeller Club President Michele Conte.
Besides the loss of volumes, and consequently of workload, for local agents, the regional council – whose political leaders undertook to inform both Ionian Sea Port Authority president Sergio Prete and the Italian government about the issue – focused also on the fact that LBH Italia is a company incorporated under Italian law, but its share capital is held by LBH Group, with registered office in the Caribbean island Curaçao, in the Dutch Antilles. This tax regime used to be included in western black-lists, although at present it is regarded as more “collaborative” compared to the past.
Taranto ship agents, supported by Federagenti and by the Propeller club, asked Arcelor Mittal to divide all the work among all the agents active in the port of Taranto as it used to do during Riva's management.