Have you ever wanted to say, “that’s it, I’m leaving everything to be a fisherman”? Waking up early in the morning, the silence of the beach, the tranquility of the water, the pleasure of a carefree lifestyle: compared to office jobs, traffic and stress, everyone, sooner or later, must have given it a thought. Well, you might never own a boat in the middle of the sea or a beach bar. However, what is certain is that the maritime environment is a growing sector, offering important job opportunities. This is confirmed by the Italian Maritime Economy report by the Srm Study Centre of the Intesa San Paolo Group, which analyzed the development of the Italian maritime sector in terms not only of employment, but also commercially and geopolitically, given the growth of the Suez Canal as a global hub and the growing tension between China and the United States in the control of trade.
The maritime economy in Italy is experiencing a strong growth, at levels even higher than before the crisis: 11,3% of jobs and 12,6% of revenues compared to 2008. In the age of global trade, seaborne import-exports to our country are an important source of revenue. In fact, it could be exploited even more. There are three sectors referred to in the report: shipbuilding, which includes both shipbuilding and the maintenance and repair sector of ships and boats in general; logistics, including storage, services related to maritime transport, freight handling, customs shippers and distribution services: and finally, the transport sector, both passenger and freight.
The sector in Italy counts more than 12,000 active companies, very different from each other in terms of both staff and organization, depending on the scope of activity. However, these are mostly small and medium-sized companies: in terms of employment, according to the Srm report, the average is 21 workers per company. Logistics ranks as the first sector with 122 thousand employees, followed by shipbuilding with 27,000 employees, and finally transportation with 20,000 workers in tow. The increase in jobs has mainly developed since 2017: this is also thanks to the dynamics of international trade, more specifically with the growth of the Suez Canal, which has helped to place the focus of commercial interest back on the Mediterranean, Africa and Asia.
Italy's maritime economy is experiencing a strong growth, even higher than pre-crisis levels: 11.3% of jobs and 12.6% of revenues compared to 2008
Logistics is the sector that has seen the greatest increases in profitability, with a 19,5% increase in employees and a 17,3% increase in revenues compared to 2008. Transportation has also grown: between 2008 and 2017 there was an increase of 7,2%, while shipbuilding is down, -9,7% over the same period. The value of Italy's trade is also booming: in 2018 our country recorded movements of 253.7 billion euros, up 6,3% compared to 2017. The coming and going of ships is especially good for 12 out of the Italian regions that depend directly on the sea system for their internal economy, having more than 30% of their export import carried out on sea routes. This is even more the case for the South, where seven of these regions are located. It confirms the crucial importance of the Mediterranean for the South, not only in terms of tourism.
So, what is shipped? The main product category in terms of volumes is that of liquid bulks, i.e. fuels. Beyond the fact that they are in themselves a fundamental element of the energy supply of ports, they also provide a source of high profits for port activities. In 2018, 184 million tons (mainly imported) were handled, primarily to meet the demand for energy and refining of petroleum products. 70% of liquid traffic is held within the top five Italian energy ports: Trieste, Cagliari, Augusta, Milazzo and Genoa.
China is our main supplier: 17% of all sea borne imports (equivalent to 22.4 billion euros) are Chinese. The US, on the other hand, is the main recipient of our export, with 27.7 billion euros, equal to 23% of the total. In terms of international trade, the Suez Canal (which celebrated 150 years since its construction) is confirmed as a crucial hub in the world: 9-10% of international transport goes through the canal. In 2018, the world's most famous artificial canal set a new record, with 458.8 million tons of goods transiting. The same ships that cross it are also getting bigger: their size increased by 12% between 2014 and 2018. In the first five months of 2019 alone, 7,600 have already gone through the canal.
The main product category in terms of volumes is fuels
On the world stage, however, the trade war between China and the US runs the risk of slowing down development: just think that containerized exports from China to the US have already fallen by 8% in the first quarter of 2019, and could be reduced still over the next few months. And while Italy remains a leader in short-haul shipping in the Mediterranean, with 230 million tons of goods transported and a market share of 37,4%, on the other hand, the report explains, to become even more competitive it needs to improve the efficiency of its supply chain, with between 70 and 80% of companies still outsourcing this function.
A different story goes for the Special Economic Zones in the South of Italy (geographical areas subject to different economic legislation and destined to receive tax and bureaucratic facilities and facilitations, the result of the Decreto Sud – Decree for Southern Italy - of 2017), which could help to increase the level of exports of the country by up to 40%: in a decade, it could reach increases in export volumes of up to 18 billion euros. Not a bad number, considering how much the South of Italy needs to grow. Given that it already contributes to 45% of the national trade, and that companies in the South already carry out 65% of their import/export by sea (a total of 58 billion euros), the ports of the South could play an even more important role in the international projection of supply chains. Starting from the key sectors of the so-called “4 As” (agriculture and food, apparel, aerospace and automotive) and biopharmaceuticals: considering that these supply chains export 21.2 billion products worldwide, this is a big opportunity, as long as you know how to exploit it. Even from an employment perspective.