Ex Ilva, stop at blast furnace 2 from 4 December. The Taranto steelworks down to only one plant running

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From 4 to 11 December Acciaierie d’Italia, formerly Ilva, will stop blast furnace 2 in the Taranto plant, one of the two currently remaining operational, given that 1 has been stopped since August. The company made the stop official with a communication to the metalworkers’ unions on the afternoon of December 1st. The start-up maneuvers at the stop will probably begin on Monday. The plant is scheduled to restart after December 13th but the unions are skeptical about this and cite, as an example, what happened with blast furnace 1.

It was supposed to remain closed for a month in August to allow the installation of the Meros environmental filters on the agglomeration (where the minerals to be loaded into the blast furnaces are prepared) to be completed and instead it is still closed. Steelworks 1, one of the two in the plant, has also stopped since then. With the stop of blast furnace 2 (the possibility of stopping blast furnace 4 was also considered but then it was decided to leave it running and move on to 2), the steel industry is left with only one active blast furnace. Historic low.

This means a production of 5,000-5,500 tons of cast iron per day to be transformed into steel, in a context in which production levels are already depressed. The proof is that this year 3 million tons will be produced against the announced 4 million. Further impacts of the shutdown on staff must then be assessed. For the unions there could be an extension of the ongoing redundancy fund, involving another 250 units, considering that battery 7 of the cockeries is also temporarily stopped.

Blast furnace 2 is stopped – the company explained to the metalworking acronyms – because the conveyor belt that brings the raw materials to the plant has worn out and is therefore unusable. The belt is periodically subject to wear and tear and for some time Acciaierie has been suffering from a lack of spare parts which are not purchased due to the well-known economic difficulties facing the company. But even on the detail of the conveyor belt not working, the unions disagree. Rather, they see the stopping of the blast furnace as yet another attempt by Mittal to force the ongoing negotiation which has a new appointment in the shareholders’ meeting on 6 December.

Then there is the unusability of a port crane. In fact, the raw materials arrive by sea, the ships unload them at the factory’s projections and then the conveyor belts sort them inside. The combined conveyor belt-crane out of order pushed the company to have to resort to trucks for handling but this created disposal difficulties. Added to this is the fact that there is also a question of raw materials whose supply by Acciaierie is currently limited due to liquidity problems. While previously the company benefited from credit, now the suppliers of raw materials demand payment upon landing from Acciaierie and this does not always happen. Sometimes it also happens partially with respect to the load transported. And so, as in recent days, the number of ships stopped in the Taranto harbor waiting to unload for the steel industry is increasing. All this determines the impact of additional costs to be faced: the demurrage to be paid to the shipping company, which for each day of forced stopover would be equal, depending on the size of the ship, from 15 thousand to 30 thousand dollars.

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