Italian unions call for ports meeting.
ITALIAN port union leaders have called for an urgent meeting with government ministers to discuss the growing crisis at the country"s major transhipment ports.
In a joint letter to infrastructure and transport minister Altero Matteoli, the general secretaries of Filt Cgil, Fit Cisl and Uiltrasporti argued that the economic crisis ?is hitting Italy"s ports hard as volumes and prices fall with a resulting impact on jobs?.
Arguing that ?the transhipment ports are particularly exposed to competition?, they added that ?the development of the North African ports is having a significant impact on activity in Italy.
?As the big shipowners move to other ports there is the risk of a gradual diminution of activity to the point that ports may be forced to close.? Gioia Tauro was particularly endangered, they argued.
Contship Italia, which operates the Medcenter Container Terminal in Gioia Tauro, is already planning to lay off 40% of its workers. Taranto, run by Hutchison and Evergreen, announced 240 layoffs recently.
Only one of Italy"s three transhipment ports, Cagliari, has not announced layoffs, but it is working with a lean workforce after Maersk"s departure in April, 2008 put its future in doubt.
The union leaders echoed calls made by terminal operators over the years for the government ?to introduce specific regulations differentiating transhipment port operations? from those of Italy"s regional ports. They argue that the Italian hubs must be put in a position to compete on cost with the new African transhipment ports.