Friends to our ports? The editorial by Franco Michienzi Friends to our ports? The editorial by Franco Michienzi
The subject of backdated state fees unjustly demanded by the state has been raised forcefully with Paola De Micheli, Minister for Infrastructure, by the... Friends to our ports? The editorial by Franco Michienzi

The subject of backdated state fees unjustly demanded by the state has been raised forcefully with Paola De Micheli, Minister for Infrastructure, by the president of UCINA. As yet no real commitments have been made

by Francesco Michienzi

EVERY YEAR I TELL MYSELF TO STOP TALKING ABOUT THE POLITICIANS WHO OPEN THE GENOA BOAT SHOW.But every time I find myself doing it again. I always hope to hear clear, firm words. Words that tell us they’re serious this time. This situation is not about political colours.

The opening was attended by Paola de Micheli from the Partito Democratico, Minister for Infrastructure, and Giovanni Toti, president of the Region of Liguria and leader of Cambiamo, a movement born out of a split with Forza Italia. They claim to be real friends to the yachting sector and perhaps they are.

Their contributions are always packed with emphasis, describing our world with precision, competence and due attention to detail. They tell us how good we are, they say you’ve done it despite the actions of the government that haven’t helped you. Perhaps it’s the party atmosphere, the good progress shown by the market, the sell-out boat show and the crowd about to visit the event, but I didn’t hear any specific commitment.

The minister said that the Nautical Code will be definitively approved within a few days. A few days have passed now and it still hasn’t been approved, but perhaps it will have been by the time we go to press. De Micheli was peremptory in saying that politicians act as politicians, entrepreneurs act as entrepreneurs and the government has to find a middle ground. In other words, this means she can’t make a tangible commitment. We’re faced with the usual performance by politicians who make people believe they care about the sector at the time, only to go back to Rome and fail to sort things out.

The president of UCINA, Saverio Cecchi, forcefully raised the subject of tourist ports that risk going under because the state decided to change the rules after the game was already in play. This is a well-known issue that dates back to the 1990s. However, it’s worth giving a quick recap here. Twenty-five companies that invested in tourist ports were led to develop their facilities on the basis of the state fees established by Ministerial Decree 343/98, incorporated into the definitive licence-contract as a mandatory and permanent condition of the financing project on which the investment is based.

In 2006 the budget law raised the licence fees and the State Property Agency insisted upon applying the new fees retrospectively, complete with miscalculations that raised them to 400 per cent, leading to a long-standing dispute with the State Property Agency.

Without any regulations to clarify it, this dispute involving around 40 million euros of arrears demanded by the state still persists today and has led to a situation of serious uncertainty, which is draining both for the ports and for the state administration. It is preventing tourist ports from being modernised and improved, paralysing their running, with negative effects in terms of security and tourist services.

Foreign investors have also disappeared, having observed that the Italian state fails to respect the contracts it stipulates with investors. Tourist ports developed before 2007 have therefore had to deal with a crisis in the yachting market that halved their turnovers, as well as an extremely expensive dispute that has not yet been resolved and makes them extremely difficult to run.

While waiting for the government to find a middle ground between the rightful claims being made by yachting sector and the resistance shown by politicians who are particularly blind to the opportunities leisure boating offers for the development of the Italian economy, we hope that the closeness the deputies and senators of the Italian Republic – from all parties – declare to have for our sector leads to a tangible provision of some kind.

(Friends to our ports? – – November 2019)