Maersk to Leave Italy's Gioia Tauro

Maersk to Leave Italy's Gioia Tauro

Maersk Line is pulling out of Gioia Tauro, dealing a major blow to the troubled southern Italian port’s role as the Mediterranean’s leading ocean container transshipment hub.

The Danish carrier will cease transshipment services in July, reducing its presence in Gioia Tauro to a single feeder link to the North West Italian port of Genoa.

“Maersk Line can confirm that its Asia-Europe services will cease calling Gioia Tauro by early July,” said Maersk spokesman Michael Christian Storgaard.

“In effect this means that Gioia Tauro no longer will be used as a transshipment hub in Maersk Line’s global network.”

Maersk will transship Asian containers bound for the Central Mediterranean at CMA CGM’s Malta terminal where it will “leverage” its vessel sharing agreement with the French carrier.

Asian cargo for the fast-growing East Mediterranean market, particularly Turkey and the Black Sea, will switch to the Suez Canal Container Terminal in Port Said, Egypt, a “more convenient” location that has greatly increased its transshipment traffic in recent years.

Storgaard said the decision to quit Gioia Tauro was driven by Maersk’s continuous effort to optimize its service network to ensure cost effective and competitive operations.

Hinting at further changes in its network, Storgaard said Maersk is “constantly looking for more attractive products and costs reductions to adapt to market dynamics” in other places in the Mediterranean.

Maersk is Gioia Tauro’s biggest customer, accounting for approximately 25 percent of its container traffic, which totaled 2.85 million 20-equivalent units in 2010.

Terminal workers held a sit-in on Friday outside the offices of Medcenter, the company that operates Gioia Tauro’s container terminal.

Unions say up to a quarter of the 3,000 direct and indirect jobs at Gioia Tauro will be lost when Maersk pulls its transshipment services.

Maersk’s sister company, APM Terminals, owns 33 percent of Medcenter, with the remainder held by Contship Italia, the Italian port terminal operator.

Maersk’s decision to quit Gioia Tauro hit the port community “like a tsunami,” Il Sole 24 Ore, the Italian business daily said.

Maersk’s move comes as Gioia Tauro, which has been plagued by labor problems, low productivity and allegations of mafia infiltration, is staging a comeback – first quarter container traffic rose to 969,000 TEUs from 865,000 TEUs in the first three months of 2010.

Maersk, which currently operates six direct Asia-Europe services to Gioia Tauro, is expanding its presence in Genoa, slotting the port into revamped U.S. East Coast and Gulf Coast service and a Europe-Asia service in July.

-- Contact Bruce Barnard at brucebarnard47@hotmail.com