Port of Civitavecchia: 7 years of bloody bureaucracy. Now it’s all to do over again

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The problem of berths in Italy is certainly not discovered today. Upstream, there is the lack of a well-thought-out infrastructure, made up of ports and marinas for recreation (from the boat to the large yacht) that penalizes Italian tourism on the sea. Yet the space to meet the current high demand would be there. And there would also be those willing to invest in the sector, especially private ones, capable of operating in settings where municipalities do not have enough money to support the effort.

What we talk about in this article:


Nautical tourism: why is there no infrastructure in Italy?

A major obstacle is bureaucracy: a legislative and legal system that makes it difficult to act amid delays, appeals and loopholes that deter those who would even be willing to invest .

An all-Italian example of the above up can be found in the case of the Civitavecchia marina. A story that seems to come straight out of a novel by Bohemian writer Franz Kafka. For seven years (2016) there has been a project ready and approved, but it is delayed each time. Then the light at the end of the tunnel with the work about to begin before the last judgment: it ‘s all to go again!

The solution, unfortunately, appears to be tied to two things: waiting for the legislature to get its hands on the legislation and for the administrative justice system to work to provide answers in a timely manner.

Port of Civitavecchia: a story of cursed bureaucracy

2016. A company wants to invest by taking the area of Civitavecchia’s Historic Port under concession to build a marina.

Any project for the construction of facilities dedicated to recreational boating must be approved through the “service conference,” (Presidential Decree 509/1997) aimed at the release of property in the maritime domain for the construction of facilities dedicated to recreational boating. A procedure, in competition, that is specialized and aimed precisely at replacing both the ordinary licensing and construction procedures. Activating it is the Port Authority.


Port of Civitavecchia: the first problems in 2016

Five companies submit their projects, but there is already an initial critical issue: the boundaries of the areas of focus are not delineated, just as the overall picture is not defined.

With this background, it is easy to understand why work plans are proposed that are inadequate or far removed from the reality of things. The lack of guidelines was such that projects were also occupying areas already under concession to other parties.

May 2017 arrives. The Port Authority rejects, clearly, all the proposals. In view of the situation, however, it gives more time for all competing companies to adjust their focus: more precise specifications are given and a grid with evaluation criteria is also provided.

Two companies are pulling out, while the remaining three are formulating plans adapted to the new directions. It is at this time that one of the three companies files a complaint with the Guardia di Finanza for anomalies in the conduct of the procedure against one of the competing companies. Stalemate is entered: although the criminal case is not linked to the administrative proceedings, the municipality, which was the driving force behind the service conference, is waiting for the judges’ ruling.

Two years after the investigation began, the Civitavecchia Court judge dismissed the case because no elements were found to continue the allegation of alleged bid-rigging, which was found to be unfounded. Years lost for nothing and the image of a group of investors unnecessarily put in a bad light. In vain, meanwhile, are the requests from the companies to proceed in parallel anyway during this trial phase with the services conference, so as not to waste any more time.


February 2022: the year of the turning point

Out of the scene the Public Prosecutor’s Office arrives among various vicissitudes at the turning point in February 2022. The Services Conference decides (finally) that the only proposal that meets the public interest and the criteria defined by the evaluation grid is that of the company that had been complained about.

Thus we enter the final design phase. Are they starting work? Absolutely not. At this point the Superintendence intervenes because the context of the Civitavecchia port is historic and of great architectural value. Another year is lost between meetings of engineers and architects, evaluations, reshuffling of design changes, and endless waiting for answers and approval from the Superintendency, which does not arrive until summer 2023.

In the meantime, they also manage to overcome some appeals to the Tar and even obtain a favorable opinion from the National Anti-Corruption Authority.


Port of Civitavecchia: July 2023, work is ready to start

July 19, 2023, unanimity! It comes down to the final unanimous approval of the Services Conference. Seven years have passed. Seven years of bureaucracy, to choose the project of a company that (with its own money) wants, from 2016, to invest in Italy to build a new marina, in an area that fundamentally needs it.

Between changes, pandemic, raw material cost and labor market revolution, the projected costs of the original project have risen from 23 million to 32 million. Society, however, is still willing to take it on.

August 2023, the assignee company is waiting for the Port Authority to convene a meeting to finalize the maritime state concession. Everyone is confident that work will finally begin.


Port of Civitavecchia: August 2023. Final stop and project all to be redone

The judges of the Council of State in their August 11 ruling, nullify everything and essentially set the timetable back to 2016, with a ruling that finds a “clear conflict of interest and lack of impartiality that affected the entire course of the procedure,” despite the pronouncements of the TAR and ANAC!

So what? It starts from scratch…

Here is explained with this history of bureaucracy why it is impossible to create new ports and invest in recreational boating in Italy. If you were an investor or a simple citizen willing to improve the situation, wouldn’t you run away to other shores…in full sail?

Luigi Gallerani

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