Genoa based Grandi Navi Veloci has put itself forward as a potential partner for the region of Sardinia to run ferry services to the island once state carrier Tirrenia is privatised.
Speaking after meeting regional transport director Liliana Lorettu in Sassari, GNV managing director Ariodante Valeri said he “proposed GNV as a future manager of the Tirrenia lines serving Sardinia as part of any public-private joint venture that might succeed Tirrenia”.
The Italian government is considering its options as it looks to privatise Tirrenia before the end of the year, and GNV’s public declaration of intent is likely to prompt further jockeying for position among the private operators eager to profit from the state carrier’s demise.
The move also comes as GNV is seeking to reverse an order from the port authority of northern Sardinia to move from its long-time home in the industrial port of Porto Torres, where it expects to handle 600,000 passengers this year, to a refurbished commercial port.
Until recently, Rome had appeared to favour selling off Tirrenia en bloc to a single buyer after competitive bidding.
Recently, however, it has returned to the possibility of farming out Tirrenia’s regional companies, including Saremar, which serves Sardinia, to the regional governments.
While the likes of Sardinia and Campania had long been open to taking over local services, others such as Tuscany were opposed. Opposition has waned, however, precisely as budget cuts in Rome have threatened to bring cuts in Tirrenia’s services to the islands.
For GNV, the meeting in Sassari was doubly useful as it seeks to bolster its position in the large and growing Sardinia market.
The company is furious at being forced to transfer from its long-time home in the industrial port in Porto Torres to the new commercial port near the heart of the city.
Mr Valeri says the port authority of northern Sardinia ordered the transfer unilaterally and without warning, and has refused to discuss the issue since.
In response, GNV has filed papers with a regional administrative court requesting the reversal of the port authority order and the restoration of its operating concession at the industrial port.
Corsica Sardinia Ferries has just won a somewhat similar case against the port authority before the same court, involving its right to load and unload its own ships.
Mr Valeri, who cites rudimentary facilities for passengers at the new terminal as well as its dangerous exposure to harsh weather conditions in the winter months, says Ms Lorettu pledged to investigate, adding that he hoped for a favourable resolution.
Separately, on Wednesday Mr Valeri met Porto Torres transport director Giacomo Rum, and put GNV forward as a possible partner in a consortium to operate the local cruise and ferry facilities.
Though there may be sound financial reasons for an involvement, GNV’s offer is also likely to reinforce the impression locally of the company’s potential financial contribution to the area.