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© Autorita’ di Sistema Portuale del Mar Ionio

Port of Taranto blocks China-linked concession

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Taranto, Italy (Ports Europe) September 12, 2023 – The Port of Taranto has blocked a concession to a company linked with China – Progetto Internazionale 39. The port is part of Autorita’ di Sistema Portuale del Mar Ionio (AdSP – Port Authority of the Ionian Sea-Port of Taranto).

In March this year, Progetto Internazionale 39 won the contract to manage Piattaforma Logistica del porto di Taranto, part of the ZES (Zona Economica Speciale Interregionale Ionica Puglia Basilicata). This award has now been revoked. It has been reported that 34% of Progetto Internazionale 39 is owned by Sergio Gao Shuai, a delegate of the Chinese government.

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The Silk Road

Chinese participation had previously been supported by Beppe Grillo, founder of the five-star political movement. Previously, he called for Taranto and Gioia Tauro, both southern ports, to become part of Italy’s support of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (Silk Road).

In 2019, Italy became the first developed nation to join the official Silk Road project. However, the political climate has changed.

Last July, Italy’s defence minister Guido Crosetto described the decision to join as “improvised and atrocious”.

Last Sunday, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said there was more to Italy’s relationship with China than the Silk Road. A final decision on whether to leave the BRI is still to be taken, but withdrawl seems likely. Rome needs to find a way to back down without severely damaging relations with Beijing.

Thus, it seems that the Taranto decision is part of this government’s view. Part of the explanation could also be that Taranto is considered a “strategic infrastructure”. The Southern Maritime Command of the Italian Navy, the Submarine Command and the NATO Maritime Command are present at the port.

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