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Chinese investors revive Italian port

China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-09-03 07:29

Two sides have great potential for win-win cooperation in infrastructure construction

VADO LIGURE, Italy - Not far from an abandoned industrial site where rusted metal reveals its manufacturing past, the port of Vado Ligure carries the promise of the Italian city's future.

Neighboring an old reefer terminal that has so far handled mostly bananas and pineapples, the new Vado Gateway terminal, under a partnership between European and Chinese businesses, will be opened in December and become one of the most capable terminals in Europe.

COSCO Shipping Ports, under the world's largest integrated shipping enterprise China Ocean Shipping Corp, or COSCO, bought a 40-percent stake in the terminal, second to the Netherlands-based APM Terminals, part of the Danish conglomerate Maersk.

 Chinese investors revive Italian port

A view of the port of Vado Ligure, Italy, in which COSCO Shipping Ports has bought a 40-percent stake. Photos Provided to China Daily

"The arrival of COSCO in APM was welcomed as an important turning point, (as) it has strengthened this group and it has provided an exceptional chance that we would not have had in an Italian investment scenario," said Monica Giuliano, mayor of Vado Ligure.

Unemployment is high in Italy, one of the most indebted economies in the European Union.

In Liguria region, where Vado Ligure is located, the unemployment rate of 37.9 percent among young people aged 15-24 is the highest among all age groups, according to EU statistics.

The city used to boast factories and industries, but many of them have closed in recent years. However, Chinese businesses have confidence in the port, bringing confidence to locals.

"I see the Chinese investments in Vado in a positive way, because we are undergoing a period of crisis," said Danilo Causa, who is in charge of the local transport federation under the Italian Confederation of Trade Unions.

APM Terminals expects its number of employees to grow from 240 in December 2019 to 300 by the end of 2020 and about 400 at full operation, in the city of 8,500 people, said Paolo Cornetto, managing director of APM Terminals at Vado Ligure.

A vibrant port could also create other jobs, as studies show each direct job can generate two indirect jobs, Cornetto said.

Beyond jobs, the ongoing upgrading will enable Vado Ligure to have the only terminal in the region at the moment that can handle ultra large container vessels, according to Cornetto.

Chinese partners add value to our presence in Vado Ligure, both commercially and technically, he added.

The new terminal will have an annual capacity of 900,000 TEUs (20-foot equivalent unit), three times more than the old terminal, and enable Vado Ligure to compete with better known European ports.

Huge, blue cranes bearing their manufacturers' acronym ZPMC - Zhenhua Port Machinery Co, another Chinese company - will create the most automated stacking yard in Italy.

A new off-dock four-lane rail facility with a capacity for 14 trains per day will also provide rapid access to central and northern European countries such as Switzerland, Germany and France.

The bonds between China and Italy can be traced back over seven centuries to Venetian merchants and the explorer Marco Polo's trailblazing journey along the ancient Silk Road to China.

Continuing the tradition, Italy earlier this year inked a memorandum of understanding with China on the Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to bring the world closer through infrastructure improvement and other efforts.

Noting Italy is the first country of the Group of Seven to sign such an agreement, Gian Enzo Duci, a professor at the University of Genoa and president of the Italian National Federation of Ship Brokers and Agents, said: "Moving on that line, there will be a lot of cargo in the present and the future (through Italy). And if we are able to update and upgrade our road and rail infrastructure, we can be the Chinese door to central Europe."

Cisco Wang, the representative of COSCO Shipping Ports in Vado Ligure, said his company will expand investment along the Belt and Road in a win-win spirit.

China is Italy's largest trading partner in Asia, with bilateral trade growing 9.1 percent to $54.24 billion last year.

The ongoing construction in Vado Ligure is the largest program for Italian ports.

"Chinese investments, like the one in Vado Ligure, are necessary; if we want to develop a certain area, we need to welcome these investments. We can't stop progress," said Giancarlo Vinacci, deputy mayor of the nearby city of Genoa, which boasts Italy's busiest port.

Last year, Genoa's Morandi Bridge collapsed, reflecting an urgent need for Italy to improve infrastructure.

Li Shaofeng, counselor of commerce at the Chinese Consulate-General in Milan, said the two countries have seen great potential for cooperation in infrastructure construction, since China has financial resources and technical expertise and that's exactly what Italy needs.

Paolo Firpo, container operation manager at APM Terminals, said the biggest change at the port has been the transformation from a family port business to a multinational business.

"It is clear that the involvement of Maersk and COSCO has brought an upgrade of the port; the fact of working with a different culture and different methods has brought a professional upgrade that I find exiting," he said. "We have the operational and commercial aspect, where we have seen positive indications."


Chinese investors revive Italian port

(China Daily Global 09/03/2019 page9)

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