According to Italian classification society Rina, existing facilities at Italy’s largest port are increasingly inadequate for a new generation of cruise and container ships. Unless it acts, and soon, it risks losing market share to other centres, Rina found.
The study, commissioned by an arm of the local port authority that controls the existing repair facilities, emerges at a time of heated debate in the Ligurian capital over the future of its repair industry. Over recent months, the port authority has been moving towards a substantial overhaul of the existing facilities and the installation of a 360mtr-long floating dry dock.
Local industry figures back the move, arguing that without action soon, business will simply move elsewhere. Indeed, local repair yard San Giorgio del Porto has already invested in a facility in Marseille exactly because of space restrictions in Genoa.
At the same time, the plan faces mounting opposition from local citizens alarmed at the prospective hand-over to industry of a port area at the heart of the city. Separately, concern over the future of the Fincantieri shipyard at nearby Sestri Ponente, where the second cruise ship is being completed for Oceania Cruises, has stirred talk locally that it might have a role in repair.
The demand for a Genoa facility is certainly there. As Rina notes, the sharp increase in the size of the world fleet, with cruise and container ships in the van, has translated into rising demand for repair and inspection facilities capable of handling vessels that can run in excess of 300mtrs in length.
In the Mediterranean, it notes, there are roughly 170 dry docks, 45% of which, as in Genoa, fixed installations less than 270mtrs in length, and 38% of which floating docks of similar dimensions. In the entire region, Rina reports, there are only 28 dry docks and one floating dock in Tuzla capable of handling vessels longer than 270mtrs.
Currently, Genoa’s facilities are used by specialised ships, such as cruise ships, operating in the Ligurian ports. Demand has increased with traffic flows, and Liguria’s cruise business has surged over the last decade, with passenger numbers more than trebling to 1.68m passengers over that period.
Rina estimates current demand for maintenance and inspection services in Genoa at around 150 ships per year, including yachts, container ships and ad hoc visits from ships with immediate repair problems, as well as cruise ships. That number includes roughly 20 cruise and container ships that call for scheduled inspections or maintenance every year.
As a string of huge new ships join the cruise and container fleets, however, Genoa’s ability to handle this business will diminish, and with it the port’s competitiveness and market share. On cruise alone, Rina estimates that current size restrictions at the port’s facilities preclude 62% of the ships assessed from entering. The installation of the 360mtr long dock currently being pushed by the port authority, however, would allow almost any ship to call.