Assarmatori Annual Meeting 2024. Stefano Messina: “A year lived amid conflicts, sanctions, geopolitical tensions and a rapid energy transition”

Geopolitical tensions that lead to open conflicts and the increasingly pervasive use of sanctions have become part of our lives, pushing us toward a “new normal” where societies and businesses struggle to adapt. The Middle Eastern tensions aggravated the RussiaUkraine conflict, and the Houthi attacks on merchant ships in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait affected the shipping sector. This has resulted in the cessation of passenger traffic in the Suez Canal, as well as having an impact on cargo traffic. During the initial months of the year, transits experienced a decrease of over 40%, with peaks of 50% in March.

The Adriatic ports are experiencing a decline in traffic, unlike the Tyrrhenian ports, which have seen a consolidation of movements due to geographical reasons. A longer route then results in increased operational costs for ships, due to geographical reasons. However, as reports from the Bank of Italy testify, the risk that this could translate into a new inflationary push is nonexistent.
The Russian-Ukrainian conflict, or, more precisely, the economic sanctions against Russia that have resulted from it, continue to have a significant impact on shipping.

As a result, the so-called shadow fleet, composed of tankers used to transport petroleum products from countries subject to international sanctions, is growing. In this context, maritime transport is facing the initial phase of regulation arising from the Green Deal. Since the beginning of the year, the Emission Trading System (ETS) has been in effect, and the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR) entered into force in April. In addition to the FuelEU Maritime regulations and the IMO Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII). This is a highly pertinent and intricate matter, where the necessity to rely on a policy that safeguards the Mediterranean identity is even more evident.

Technological neutrality, for instance, possesses undeniable advantages at the industrial level; however, it can be detrimental as it engenders significant uncertainty in maritime transport, particularly in short-sea shipping. In fact we are not referring to vessels that traverse distances exceeding several thousand miles and make frequent stops at various ports, thereby allowing them to select their fueling location based on the chosen fuel and its availability.

On the contrary when discussing local public transportation, the Motorways of the Sea, cruise traffic, and connections with the islands, we frequently refer to routes that connect only two ports, sometimes within the same country. In such a scenario, it is essential that the substantial revenues generated by maritime transport in the country from the
ETS system and the FuelEU Maritime sanctions regime be allocated to the national maritime and port sectors to finance the necessary investments related to the production of new fuels, port infrastructure for their refueling, modal shift and major fleet renewal interventions.

We must also consider the need for a simplified sectoral regulatory system, both to make the Italian flag competitive with those in other EU countries and to improve maritime labor.

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