A 92 year old shipowner electrified a maritime conference in Naples when he directly warned one of the Italy’s most senior politicians that the national fleet was “doomed to disappear” without more help from government policies.
Mr Peppino D’Amato the head of Perseveranza said ministers in Rome were “not really paying attention” to the fact that “companies are shutting down and jobs being lost.”
He demanded a personal meeting as soon as possible with the government to explain what policies were needed.
The celebrated owner had been in the audience listening to a round table debate at the 2018 Shipping and the Law conference in the famous port city.
But he insisted on taking to the stage so he could deliver his impassioned plea directly to Roberto Fico, the president of the Italian Chamber of Deputies who was there.
Fico, who is from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which is part of Italy’s coalition government, had earlier given the key note speech at the conference.
Fico had gone out of his way to stress the importance of the “blue economy” to both Naples and Italy saying his party was determined to rebuild port and other transport infrastructure and “avoid the mistakes of the past.”
This was not enough - it seemed - for Mr D’Amato although the two men agreed at the end of the conference session that a proper meeting would take place in future.
Mario Mattioli, president of Confitarma, the Italian Shipowners Association, had earlier told the conference that he had his own “good” meeting with the new Transport Minister that had last 50 minutes.
More traditional targets for shipowner frustration were outlined at the event by Panos Laskiridis, president of the European Community Shipowners Associations.
He attacked the European Union for failing to appreciate the maritime sector. “Europe has no trade wars, refugee problems,disputes between economic strong and weak countries…the only strategic asset which Europe possesses is its huge merchant fleet which moves about 40% of the world’s trade.”
The European Commission should “abstain from pointing the (critical) finger at shipping but protect, defend and stand behind us.”
The conference used the title of “The future is Now” to discuss progress on new fuels plus environmental regulations around sulphur and carbon.
Leading Greek shipowner John Lyras said it was wrong that responsibility for “greening” shipping and potentially taking penalties for not doing so all lay with vessel operators.
“What about the ship builders, fuel suppliers, the shippers? It is car manufacturers not car owners who get penalised for polluting vehicles after all,” he said.
The International Maritime organisation’s top legal adivser, Frederick Kenney, said he had seen a significant and positive shift in shipowner attitudes towards sulphur and carbon in the past 4 to 5 months.
But he questioned how shipping could do the kind of brilliant public relations job like aviation which had largely won over the public to its side.
The environmental session at the conference ended on a higher note with major local shipowner and vice president of the International Chamber of Shipping, Emanuele Grimaldi, outlining the enormous fuel efficiencies wrought in his huge fleet with the use of quite easily available incremental changes using new hulls, propellors and paints.
Francesco S. Lauro, the lead partner of Naples law firm Studio Legale Lauro which stages the annual conference, said it was another major success.
“Over 200 people from all around the globe came to Naples to debate political and economic as well as commercial and legal issues that all affect shipping.”
“It was the best event yet with passionate debate from all sides but also new ideas raised and technical solutions discussed.
“We have created something unique and we are determined to build on this for next year: our tenth anniversary. The foothills of Vesuvius seem to be a perfect place for scalding hot but relevant maritime debates.”