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Italian shipowners seek Rome’s help in coronavirus fight

Shipowners from Italy, the European nation hardest hit by coronavirus, are in dialogue with the government in Rome, seeking help as the illness savages bottom lines.

Latest data shows the outbreak has hit 3,089 people in Italy with 107 deaths, leading Rome to suspend the country’s schools and universities for a couple of weeks.

Tourism, shipping and logistics have been heavily impacted by the emergency. Imports from China have slumped while the epicenters of Italy’s outbreak have been in the Lombardia and Veneto regions which usually generate the largest part of the country’s exports. Reports have also emerged of Italy-flagged ships around the world being refused entry at a number of ports.

Both the Italian shipowners’ associations – Confitarma and Assarmatori – took part in Rome this week at a meeting convened by the foreign ministry held to help relaunch Italian exports amid the coronavirus emergency.

“We’ll put €300m on the table in support of our firms for an extraordinary ‘Made in Italy’ plan, and a further €350m for the guarantee fund for exports,” the foreign minister Luigi Di Maio said on Monday.

Italy’s economy minister Roberto Gualtieri also announced that €3.6bn would be injected into the economy to help sectors such as tourism and the logistics and transport industries, which have been badly impacted by the virus. The measures will include tax cuts, tax credits for companies that reported a 25% drop in revenues, and more money for Italy’s healthcare system. The government is currently finalising the measures which could be signed off by Italy’s Council of Ministers by Friday. The latest spending plan is in addition to the €900m of support that was unveiled on Friday last week.

The Mario Mattioli-led Confitarma association has asked for diplomatic support at an international level and urgent measures to freeze the payment of anchorage taxes for Italian ships in Italian ports. Assarmatori’s president Stefano Messina presented a long list of measures to the government, trying to bolster traffic volumes in Italian ports.

Italian ports are also in close dialogue with the government. The president of the Genoa port authority, Paolo Emilio Signorini, told Splash he expects a significant volume decrease in containers for the next two to three months thanks to the port’s high exposure to traffic flows from and to China.

Some restrictions and closures are taking place in several warehouses close to some cities classified as ‘red zones’ in the Lombardia and Veneto regions. Amazon said on Sunday that two employees in Milan have contracted the coronavirus and are under quarantine.

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Nicola Capuzzo

Nicola is a highly qualified journalist focused on transport economics, logistics and shipping with broad experience in both online and printed media. Specialties: shipping, ship finance, banking, commodities and port economics. He regularly interviews Europe's top shipowner executives for Maritime CEO magazine.
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