Home » Taranto port authority denies Chinese concession in strategic area

Taranto port authority denies Chinese concession in strategic area

The Ionian Sea Port System Authority will not grant a key logistics platform to Progetto Internazionale 39, which is controlled by a Beijing delegate

Italy denies Chinese control over strategic logistical hub. The Ionian Sea Port System Authority has rejected and shelved Progetto Internazionale 39’s request to use the logistics platform within the key port of Taranto in Southern Italy. This was reported by Corriere di Taranto, citing the company’s lack of capitalisation and failure to change shareholders as the key reasons.

  • Progetto Internazionale 39 had been awarded a significant portion of the seaport’s logistics division earlier this year.
  • 34% of the Sino-Italian company is owned by a Chinese government delegate, Sergio Gao Shuai.

Why it matters. Together with Gioia Tauro, Taranto is a crucial area for the activities of the Italian Navy and NATO forces. The seaport has long been in China’s sights: before its Chinese majority owner Weichai offloaded part of its stocks to allow for a dual IPO in Milan, Ferretti Group, an Italian yacht builder, was greenlit to set up a hull production plant in the port.

  • That decision came just a few months after Italy’s accession to the Belt and Road Initiative, brought about by former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and his majority party, the Five Star Movement, whose founder has recently pressured MPs to make Taranto a part of the Chinese infrastructure project.

X-raying the company. Today, Progetto Internazionale 39 deals with transport and logistics, but once it managed a pizza franchise chain in Rome under the name Pumma Brand. La Verità revealed that the company is still based in the capital, in the office of accountant Tommaso Celletti, who is also its sole director and 33% shareholder. Alfredo Esposito, another Italian national, has an equal share.

  • The remaining 34% is divided between a Beijing government delegate in Italy, Sergio Gao Shuai, who holds 33%, and an association linked to him, Dragon Business Forum (responsible for projects to foster relations between Italian and Chinese companies), which possesses the other 1%.

That’s suspicious. Sergio Prete, head of the Ionian Sea Port System Authority (and the only Italian among the Shanghai International Shipping Institute’s experts), had once explained that Progetto Internazionale 39 was only a special-purpose company and that the investors would actually be “others” and “Italian.” Nothing was ever discovered of these other investors.

  • What is known is that Cosco, a Chinese State-owned company that’s crucial to the BRI, has shown strong interest in the Taranto seaport…
  • …although it surely looks like all bids of this nature are running counter to the Meloni executive’s wider drive to de-risk from China, which also entails exiting the BRI.

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