For our series of interview with the operators of the sector, we met Giampaolo Botta, Director of Spediporto; the Association of Forwarding Agents, Couriers and Carriers of Genova.
How would you rate your collaboration with VTE?
Thanks to its vision the VTE Terminal created a strong complicity, integrating the worlds of shipping over land and at sea. It does not put itself forward as a dominant entrepreneurial reality, but rather as a part of a system with the objective of creating relationships and consolidating them. It is an approach with a more international flavour, which is bearing considerable fruit. For a number of years we have been working with PSA in a close and profitable relationship.
What is the role of Spediporto in the maritime sector?
Our association brings together more than 300 companies that operate in the sector of international shipping. We are entrepreneurs and our business is to carry out consultancy tied to the world of transport.
We represent importers and exporters that trust forwarding agents with the shipping of their goods. The forwarding agents are specialists in finding specific logistical solutions for each single category of goods. From the simplest type of goods, such as food, right up to the most sophisticated type of cargo.
We define ourselves as the junction where all the various protagonists meet, because we represent the best interests of the cargo. The cargo has to find dispatch channels that are fast, safe, economically viable, and capable of respecting delivery times and the integrity of the product as well as offering quality service. Our job is to guarantee all of this.
What is the economic situation of the sector?
We went through a difficult period with the economic downturn. Today we look to the future with a bit more optimism, the process of natural selection is taking place but not in a traumatic way. From our 330 associates from ten years ago today we are left with 300. A reduction of 10%, a changeover that was quite mild. The professionalism has remained in the sector because many companies were absorbed by others. There was a handover that did not take anything away on an employment level, but maintained competence, structure and economic force within the sector.
What is your current experience with the concentrations in place in the maritime market?
We are experiencing it with a certain concern; because the moment that the contacts are reduced, the market is called upon to face imbalances, reduced options and situations of economic force that are revolutionary. There is always the risk of becoming ever smaller amidst the growth of the others. There are some debates as well as challenges within the category. It is necessary to look within the sector with initiative aimed at creating important critical bodies. That is also part of our role.
What is the identikit of the average company associated with Spediporto?
Our companies employ an average of 15-20 employees. It involves entrepreneurs that have built their company with constant work and sacrifice. They are slim-line structures with a very direct chain of command. Intermediary management figures are only present in the more structured realities with 50-100 employees.
What are your thoughts on the development of the port infrastructure?
The investments made by VTE we always matched to precise objectives. There was a very organised development and today we are a port with great potential in the Mediterranean. Anyone that has to market Genoa has a very attractive winning hand.
I completely agree with VTE’s battle for the strengthening of the ground infrastructure such as the railway network. To give an example, Trieste moves 60% of its traffic on railways and was able to conquer the Eastern European market thanks to undeniable advantages compared with Hamburg or Rotterdam. With the correct investment we could replicate this for Western Europe. It is an objective that is worth trying to achieve together. The port community must support VTE’s willingness to invest.
What goals have you set yourself for 2017?
We set ourselves the prime objective of being the masters of our own technological future. We want to become more involved in the management of the information technology of the port of Genoa, because IT is strategic advantage in the maritime sector.
The second objective is to prepare our 300 companies for the challenges that lie ahead in the future. They are not all equipped to sustain the dynamics of a competitive and aggressive market. The forwarding agents have to update to a 2.0 version of themselves. We would like to do this together with the people at the terminal and all the people that are part of the system. Our task is to create the correct environment to develop these perspectives.