Port of Livorno, expansion works by the summer

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A few more months and finally – before the summer – work should start at sea for the construction of the Darsena Europa, the expansion of the port of Livorno which has long become the symbolic work of the economic relaunch of the Tuscan coast: not only for the investment made, which when fully operational will exceed 700 million euros, but also for the expected effects on traffic (and employment) of one of the main Italian ports. In 2023, 628 container ships arrived in the Tuscan port (+5.7%) with almost 34 million gross tons (+16.5%). Cruise ships have risen to 289, with more than 630 thousand passengers. The new Darsena Europa, awaited for years and preceded by controversies, setbacks and changes of route, is destined to double traffic by eliminating logistical “bottlenecks” and welcoming (also) large ships, which today cannot enter the port due to seabed too shallow.

Last December 11, the Via-Vas commission, after an evaluation lasting a year and a half, gave the environmental green light to the work, however imposing a series of requirements which are currently being communicated to the Tyrrhenian Sea Port Authority northern led by Luciano Guerrieri: «The commission’s decision must be implemented by an inter-ministerial decree – explains the president of the Authority, who is also extraordinary commissioner for the work – and accompanied by the establishment of the Observatory, which will follow the carrying out of the works and will monitor compliance with the requirements. The process was not a joke, we will make sure that everything is respected to the thousandth.” The start date of the construction sites will depend a lot on the requirements: «The works will start within a few months – announces the president – ​​first we will probably have to correct the executive project, then we will have to set up the monitoring. Thanks to the commissioner’s powers we hope to be able to begin some operations already.”

Increased material prices and long lead times (also because the ministry did not accept the block-based Via route that had been proposed by Livorno) increased the cost of the project which, for the first phase financed by public bodies (Ministry, Authority, Tuscany Region), was contracted out more than two years ago (at the end of 2021), for approximately 380 million euros, to a group led by Sidra-Società italiana dredging, the Italian operating arm of the Belgian giant Deme, with Fincantieri Infrastructure Opere Maritime, Sales and Fincosit. Now the revaluations required by law will have to be calculated, which could lead to an increase of 100 million: «During 2022 there were strong increases which are partially receding – explains Guerrieri -. We have an economic framework of 450 million euros and we also count on Government allocations for commissioned projects. We’ll see what happens step by step.”

The contract includes the construction of a 4.6 km external breakwater, consisting of the new breakwater (North dam) and the new Meloria breakwater (the old one will be demolished). Internal dams will be built for 2.3 km to delimit the new reservoirs (100 hectares), which will be added to the existing ones (70 hectares), which are being consolidated (these works, worth around 25 million, have started). The dredging of the seabed of the access canal to the basins will be strategic to bring them to a depth of 16 metres, with the excavation of almost 16 million cubic meters which will be poured into the new refill tanks.

The works at sea will last four years and will not have an impact on the operation of the port, assures Guerrieri. Then the second phase of the project will begin: «Once the maritime works have begun, we will publish the project financing notice to build and manage the future container terminal. It is useless to do it now, given that we have not started the defense works, but we will consult the market very soon.”

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