Confitarma requested a cut of port costs and a financial 'truce'
Mattioli: “Following the Cura Italia decree, we wrote to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transports detailing a series of special measures for the maritime sector”
By Francesco Bottino
Following the "Cura Italia" decree, the Italian Ministry of Infrastructure and Transports is expected to implement special measures. However, in order to allow the Italian shipping sector to withstand the tragic situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Government should take additional financial measures to support the companies which were already facing difficulties before the health emergency.
In fact, Confitarma, whose President Mario Mattioli already signed a letter – written with AssArmatori and Federagenti presidents Stefano Messina and Gian Enzo Duci – which was sent to the Italian Government to emphasize the need for direct support to the maritime industry in order to ensure the supply chain of essential goods, sent another letter to the Minister of Infrastructure and Transports Paola De Micheli illustrating several measures to be adopted in order for the Cura Italia decree to support also the shipping sector.
“We are in very good terms with the minister and with the Government, which is providing quick and prompt answers – Mattioli explained to Ship2Shore – and we definitely did not expect the last decree-law approved by Conte’s executive to include special measures for our sector”. For this reason, the main needs of the industry were detailed in a letter sent to the Minister of Infrastructure and Transports.
First of all, Confitarma requested special income support measures for Italian and EU seafarers affected by the reduction of activities of the Italian fleet as additional resources for the SOLIMARE fund.
Secondly, the association requested a temporary reduction of port costs for ships which, despite the traffic drop, are providing crucial services for the supply of essential goods, especially to Italian islands. More precisely, the association referred to a temporary exemption, with effect from the implementation of the restrictions adopted by the Government, from the payment of duties and other port charges as well as to the total, or at least partial, compensation of costs for port (technical-nautical services) and hold services.
“Ships will continue to sail also with small cargoes in order to ensure continuity of handling services for goods and essential products such as food, medicines and water for the islands. However, since incomes are very little, incurring ordinary mooring costs is very complicated for shipowners”.
The third point of the letter, which according to Mattioli “is related to the second”, concerns the temporary application (12 months) of tax and social security contributions reliefs provided for ships registered in the international register also to the units registered in national registers: “In fact, many of such units are used to provide port services to larger ships. If those who operate them obtain benefits, they will be able to lower service fees for their users, thus contributing to the attainment of the previous point”.
As concerns financial issues, which are among the most important matters for companies of all sectors, at point 4 of its letter the association of shipowners within Confindustria – based on the “Cura Italia” decree which provides for the support of the liquidity of the enterprises affected by the “Covid-19” epidemiological emergency through funds granted by the Italian investment bank CDP – requested funds up to three years from CDP funds, and with a last resort state guarantee, granted directly by CDP or by the agent banks based on a convention, in order to face the increase of management operating costs resulting both from the operational difficulties caused by EU or extra-EU States to ships flying the Italian flag and with Italian and/or EU crews, and from laid-up ships.
Finally, Confitarma, though appealing directly to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transports, hopes that the Italian Government will implement a sort of 'compulsory truce' between shipowners and their financial counterparts: “In Italy there are several shipping companies involved in proceedings as per Articles 161 and 182 bis of the Bankruptcy Law, providing for strict deadlines. At present, meeting advisors to devise plans is very difficult, therefore an 18 months suspension is necessary, also because many Courts are not working on a full-time basis”, the president of the Confederation pointed out.
And additional 18 months suspension was requested for debt restructurings as per Article 67, “although in this case, being agreements between debtor and creditor, which are both private entities, we only ask the Government to support us in the ongoing confrontation with the Italian Banks Association”, as well as for all the financial exposures of shipping companies: “We want to prevent companies’ NPLs to be transferred to speculators, or to become the object of other extemporaneous solutions not agreed upon”.
Confitarma also requested the executive’s support in the dialogue with the Italian Banks Association to reach an agreement based on the principles of the “Credit Agreement” in force entered into and extended by the Italian Banks Association and Confindustria and granting companies within the sector the right to “extend” the current mortgage loans up to a maximum of 100% of their residual duration (consistently with the validity of the underlying guarantees and only for companies whose positions are not classified among NPLs/UTPs).
“We must act immediately in order to allow the shipping industry to overcome this emergency: maritime transports are crucial to ensure the supply of essential goods in many parts of Italy. On top of that, we must safeguard our know-how in this sector”, Mattioli concluded.