An impressive number of new launches in just a few weeks reflects the excellence and incredible strength of the Italian shipbuilding industry
by Francesco Michienzi
Italy is a wonderful country, full of contrasts and contradictions. Despite a plethora of strong, dynamic and globally competitive companies, the country’s economy is always fragile, and suffers from weak growth. The European economy continues to improve, albeit slowly, and the gap between growth in Italy and the Eurozone continues to widen.
It feels like centuries ago, but it was actually only last September when deputy prime minister Luigi Di Maio stated that the newly introduced citizens’ income had “abolished poverty”. While the government seeks to fulfil electoral promises beyond its means, the Italian economy is bearing the brunt of this unstable leadership. It has been in recession for months, and the forecasts for 2019 range from zero growth from the Centro Studi Confindustria to the -0.2% predicted by the OECD, or even -0.5% from other observers. A technical recession is the first step towards falling into a financial crisis. And an economic report from the OECD only served to pile on the misery, declaring that the Italian economy has “officially stalled”.
Unfortunately, those governing the country live in their own bubble, and don’t know anything about the real Italy. Fortunately, there’s a world unknown to Italy’s politicians made up of businessmen and women who invest and believe in their ability to be global leaders in their sector. On the blue planet of the Italian shipbuilding industry, the GDSP, the gross domestic shipbuilding product, is enjoying double-digit growth.
In all my years as a journalist, I’ve never seen so many yachts and giga yachts launched in the space of just over a month. In 100 days, Benetti has put to sea three ships of over 100 metres, as well as some smaller vessels. In under a month, the Ferretti Group has launched the 79-metre CRN, the Pershing 140, the largest in its history, the 50-metre Riva Race, again the largest in the history of the model, the Riva 90, the Custom Line 106 and the 33-metre Navetta, and these are just the new models. Palumbo Superyachts has released an 80-metre boat, built in just 26 months. Sanlorenzo launched Attila, a 64-metre ship, while Cantiere delle Marche put to sea Avdace, its new 42-metre craft, and Perini Navi released its 25-metre Eco tender.
All this in just over a month, not to mention the number of fibreglass boats launched in the same period of time. During the launch ceremonies, each business owner thanked the workers that had allowed them to build these magnificent works, sounding almost emotional. I was lucky enough to be able to look these men and women straight in the eye. To me they seemed like valiant soldiers at the end of a victorious campaign, exhausted, but happy and proud. And I can assure you that the emotion and sense of belonging was shared by all of them, regardless of the brand or their geographical location – from Ancona to Livorno, via La Spezia, the tears of joy were the same.
The wonder of touching with your own hands the value of human endeavour is a sentiment that those promoting the “layabouts’ income” will never understand. They’ve never visited the shipyards to see the hard work that turns a sheet of metal into a piece of art. This comes as no surprise when you consider that the country has a minister of labour who throughout his life has only ever known the political world. Unfortunately, the demagogy of fighting shipbuilding is supported by a local and national media that cannot see beyond its own nose. On the day of one of these boat launches, I expected to hear the news on the local Marche news bulletin. But it wasn’t even given a single minute – as if the work of thousands of people was irrelevant, and a piece of global excellence deserved silence so as not to feed social envy. Another wasted opportunity to explain that the work of high-level boat producers can help to alleviate poverty.
In just one month, the Italian shipbuilding industry has shown the entire world what it can achieve, based on unparalleled intelligence. Despite Italy’s structural limits, the business owners in the world of Italian shipbuilding have managed to overcome the internal barriers and succeed in the most difficult and absorbing challenge of all: how to combine incredible creative skill with the ability to be methodical in one’s work. When these two things are united, the result is unbeatable.
The blu planet, the editorial by Franco Michienzi – Barchemagazine.com – Maggio 2019