Maritime transport is the backbone of world trade: of the estimated $32 trillion in global trade in 2022, 80% of the volume and 70% of the value were transported over water and managed by ports around the world. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, (UNCTAD), there are 55,000 merchant ships transporting all sorts of goods, most of which travel in containers.
Europe controls almost 40% of the world’s commercial fleet, and more than 20% of maritime trade crosses the Straight of Gibraltar, making the Mediterranean one of the most dynamic sea lanes on the planet, with strategic links between Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
The trade challenges of the Mediterranean ports
The commercial vitality of the Mare Nostrum, as the ancient Romans called the Mediterranean, led to the development of several ports, many of which in direct competition with each other to attract important market shares of global trade. Among the most important Mediterranean ports are Valencia, Barcellona and Algeciras in Spain, Marseille in France, Piraeus in Greece, Tanger-Med in Morocco, Malta’s Marsaxlokk, Port Said and Alexandria in Egypt, and Italy’s Gioia Tauro and Genoa.
The capacity to place oneself at the center of the routes plied by the huge ships coming from China, Singapore, Korea and the Arab peninsula determines a considerable growth potential for all the Mediterranean ports. In fact, 40% of world maritime traffic transit through the Malacca Strait, between Indonesia and Malesia. From there, the most heavily used route heads to the Suez Canal, which handles 12% of global trade, and 30% of global container traffic.
The importance of a strategic positioning vis a vis the Suez Canal is underlined by the fact that 40% of Italian sea trade, or 82.8 billion euros, is headed to countries reachable only via the Suez Canal. The chance to manage the first handling of the large ships traffic arriving into the Mediterranean and to constitute a preferential hub to and from the Far East represents a winning card for a port. It also boosts its position for the routes that, through the Gibraltar strait, lead to the Eastern US and, through the new Panama Canal, realized by Webuild in 2016, to the Pacific.
Genoa on the global commerce chessboard
Ports of Genoa is ready to challenge its Mediterranean competitors and bid for the role of main Southern European hub. The inauguration of the work site for its new breakwater pier that, with its 800 meters maneuvering basin, will allow access to the largest of modern container ships, opens the way to a new season of maritime trade. The construction will increase operational safety and will allow to sort the traffic flow by type and destination to various dedicated piers, separating cargo shipping from cruise liners, for example.
Ports of Genoa is the entity managing maritime activities in Genoa, Vado Ligure, Savona and Prà, four multi-commodity harbors along a 50 kms stretch of coast, with 30 private port terminals and 22 kms of piers allowing for 100 merchant and passenger ships to dock. Today the Ports of Genoa handle 33% of Italy’s gateway container traffic and is the sixth largest in Europe in this category.
According to the Western Ligurian Sea Port System Authority, the goods loaded in Genoa reach 225 ports around the world, totaling 50 million tons a year. New York City and Singapore are the two top destinations, confirming Genoa’s role as a European trade hub. This role will increase significantly when the breakwater pier is completed. It will allow access to container ships carrying as many as 20,000 containers, double what is possible today, assuring a progressive growth between 2027 and 2030 from 22 to 30 percent, respectively, coming to manage in the Ports of Genoa about 5-6 million TEUs. That is the ultimate goal of such an ambitious project: to put Genoa back in the center of the Mediterranean, and using the Mare Nostrum transform the city in a global commercial trade hub.