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Naples Lm96 million terminal to challenge Malta Freeport

The Port of Naples recently announced it is to further crowd the intensely competitive Mediterranean container transhipment market with an ambitious new box terminal, at a cost of EUR240m (Lm96m).

In a move that will set it up as a major competitor to the Malta Freeport and Reggio Calabria’s Gioia Tauro terminal, the Naples port authority is expected to launch a European tender for the design of a new facility within the next two months.

The executive design for project is expected to be ready within a year, while the project would be completed within three years.

With a mix of public and private funding, the facility will be looking to capture the Mediterranean’s transhipment traffic.

The new terminal, to be known as the Darsena di Levante, will be built on top of an existing facility, which has been in a state of disuse for over than 20 years.

While Naples registered substantial growth in container volumes last year, as throughput was up 8.5% at just over 430,000 teu, its decision to move into the transhipment market comes relatively late.

Malta’s Freeport over 2000 handled in excess of one million teu in transhipment, while Gioia Tauro's Medcenter Container Terminal, operated by the Contship Italia group, is already handling close to three million teu, most of which is transhipment traffic.

Other new facilities, in particular Evergreen's Taranto hub and another Naples neighbour, Salerno, are also looking to move into the increasingly crowded Mediterranean transhipment market.

"Work stopped on the Darsena di Levante 25 years ago. If this project had been ready in 1981, maybe Gioia Tauro would never have even existed," said Ricardo Morelli, vice-president of the Naples terminal users' association.

"Naples can remain a regional port or try to become a national port, with transhipment, but it will be very difficult to fight the likes of Taranto and Gioia Tauro."

Future container volume growth within Naples will also be absorbed to a certain extent by expansion projects already under way.

However Naples has an advantage over pure transhipment hubs because of its hinterland cargo. Costs will amount to some EUR1501m (Lm38.4m) for the infrastructure work and EUR90m (Lm36m) for the terminal's railfreight connection, he said. The total area of the Darsena di Levante is reported to be 300,000 square metres.

The question of the terminal's future operator is, however, unsolved and most observers expect the port to favour an international developer, rather than the consortia of local partners that run the Port of Naples.

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt