“This will be the future of boating in Italy.” Interview with Saverio Cecchi

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Saverio Cecchi interview
A rendering of Renzo Piano’s signature design of Genoa’s new Waterfront, central to the Genoa International Boat Show

We interviewed Confindustria Nautica President Saverio Cecchi to try to understand what the trajectory of the industry will be in the coming years. The role of politics, the leadership of Made in Italy, the issue of sustainability, the lack of skilled labor. These and others are challenges that, for the president of Confindustria Nautica, are met through teamwork.

Saverio Cecchi, you have been at the helm of Confindustria Nautica since 2019. What do you feel like taking stock of these four years as president?

I am very satisfied with these four years and, of course, look forward to doing even better and more for the Association and the industry. Every result achieved was the result of great teamwork, a principle that has always distinguished my way of working. I am fortunate to be able to count on a competent and tireless team: my vice presidents and the entire presidential team along with the structure of Confindustria Nautica who manage to maximize all the effort put in, putting it into a system. Unity is strength, and in recent years we have taken important steps toward increasing representation for member companies. The Association is now very strong, in Italy and abroad, both through the successful reunification of the recreational boating industry in January 2020 and the establishment of the two new industry assemblies for Marine Sales and Service Networks and Marine Charters. The Association’s activities are marked by collaboration and dialogue. Dialogue with our Members, first and foremost, which we always put first in our operations. Dialogue with the Institutions for the enhancement of the Genoa International Boat Show, organized by Confindustria Nautica: a synergy that made the complexity of the Nuovo Waterfront di Levante construction site, such an important and articulated project, compatible with the realization of our event, waiting for the end of works in 2024.

The industry files a 2022 with record results. In your opinion, what were the key factors that led to this growth, the highest ever in the history of the industry?

Recreational boating is a healthy industry that has been solid and responsive in 2022, with positive prospects for the current boating year as well. The numbers are clear: forecasts for the entire sector-which includes shipbuilding, components and accessories, and marine engine production-indicate a 2022 turnover estimate that may reach and surpass the 7 billion euro mark, a value never before realized, which would correspond to a growth of between 15 and 20 percent over the previous year for the shipbuilding industry. Official final figures will be presented on Sept. 21, on the opening day of the 63rd International Boat Show to be held in Genoa from Sept. 21 to 26, we can, however, already say that the Italian boating industry sector files 2022 as a record year. Among the key factors fueling the growth was the export exploit of shipbuilding production, which exceeded 3 billion euros. Other decisive factors are the order portfolios of Italian yacht and superyacht shipyards, which for many operators even cover the next three years, and the excellent performance of the marine accessories and marine engine sectors. In addition, expectations for the current nautical year also appear positive. Not to mention that we are the world leader in superyacht production with 49.3 percent of global orders, and in the large inflatable boat, components and accessories segments.

Compared to what has happened in the past, has the industry today in your view evolved by structuring itself on a more solid industrial basis so that it can handle market variables in a timely and, as best it can?

The Italian recreational boating industry is a steadily growing sector, with a significant propensity to export and excellent potential for market penetration. As it emerged at a roundtable discussion among boating entrepreneurs that we organized last April at Borsa Italiana in Milan, the boating sector is more solid and resilient, having structured itself following the 2008 crisis. Today, the market and analysts’ estimates tell us of prolonged development prospects. Companies are already grasping the current challenges through systemic interventions on managerialization, talent attraction and new skills. We record strong investment in research and innovation to achieve cutting-edge results. In an ever-expanding market, it is therefore crucial for companies to adopt increasingly sustainable strategies and rethink business models, taking advantage of new opportunities to better meet the challenges of the future.

Nine months after the new government took office, have you, Saverio Cecchi, found a cooperative atmosphere from the institutions?

We are in contact with the government at the highest levels, and in the last two months alone we have met with Ministers Urso (MIMIT), Santanchè (Tourism), Fitto (European Affairs), Musumeci (Sea Policies), Deputy Minister Rixi (Transportation), Undersecretary Frassinetti (Education), covering all issues of the entire supply chain in 360°. From everyone we have seen great attention to the sector, now we are waiting for measures and concrete answers to the various dossiers we have submitted.

Among the many hot dossiers Confindustria Nautica has on the table is definitely the implementing regulation of the Boating Code. What is still missing to achieve this goal?

With regard to the Regulations for the Implementation of the Boating Code, the path of opinions from the 14 ministries asked to give their opinions has begun and is still ongoing. On April 27, I met with the Deputy Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation, Edoardo Rixi, to take stock of Implementing Regulations to the Boating Code and urge the progress of the process. Following the meeting, Minister Salvini’s Chief of Staff wrote to colleagues in various ministries, soliciting the missing opinions.

Saverio Cecchi, president of Confindustria Nautica
Saverio Cecchi, president of Confindustria Nautica

How does Confindustria Nautica stand on the Bolkestein directive and what kind of impact is it likely to have on the industry?

This is an urgent issue, especially with regard to state concessions, on which the Association is working urgently. The “Competition Law 2021” (Law No. 118 of August 5, 2022) has erroneously included even recreational boating facilities within the scope of the regulations dictated for beaches, which, moreover, already have objective criticalities, elements of inapplicability and – in some cases – even profiles of incompatibility with the Bolkestein Directive itself. The Technical Table for State Concessions envisaged by DI Dec. 29, 2022, no. 198, chaired by the head of the Department for Administrative Coordination of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, with the participation of the ministries MIT, MEF, MIMIT, Environment, Tourism, Sea Policy, Regional Affairs and European Affairs. II Technical Table on concessions is an important step and I thank Premier Giorgia Meloni for that. We need to keep in mind that, unlike merchant ports, Italy has chosen to proceed with the construction of recreational infrastructure by resorting to private investment, and it is clear that the legal certainties and profitability underlying these investments need to be safeguarded.

In your opinion, Saverio Cecchi, what steps still need to be taken to make boating in Italy a recreational activity that can bring in a wider and wider audience of users?

The recent pandemic has contributed to a growing appetite for boating, and there has been a trend toward a significant lowering of the average age of buyers. New customers, who are younger than in the past, are much more focused on sustainability, comfort, and the opportunity to spend quality time with friends and family. The challenge will be to bring more and more young people closer to boating, starting from the choice of course of study, to the opportunities represented by water sports, to the creation of products that are increasingly attentive to the new requirements of sustainability, comfort and innovative design.

The interview continues below


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The issue of finding skilled labor is becoming a priority in many areas of production. As Confindustria Nautica, you have initiatives under consideration that can speed up the process of training figures with adequate preparation so as to facilitate their inclusion. Are there plans to match demand with supply?

For Confindustria Nautica, that of finding skilled labor is a central issue. In 2022, we activated the JobSearch service for member companies, created to meet the need to cross-reference labor supply and demand in the nautical supply chain, a sector of excellence of Made in Italy in all its segments, from the production of superyachts, to small boats, from accessories and components to services and tourism activities related to it. With an eye to the future, the association also works in promoting professionalizing training paths and youth start-ups for the sector, with projects also presented as part of the Genoa International Boat Show. In the area of institutional activities, Confindustria Nautica urged, in March, at a hearing at the House of Representatives’ Productive Activities Committee, a reflection on the reorientation of the Istituti Tecnici Superiori (ITS), including boating in the sphere of developing skills in strategic technological areas for the country, given the difficulty of a highly qualified industry in finding excellent manpower. On the occasion of the Day of the Sea in Schools (April 11), strongly desired by Confindustria Nautica and not coincidentally established as part of the reform of the Boating Code approved in 2018, the Association this year sent students six short films that tell the story of the sea as Training, Sport, Profession, Business, Work and Tourism. An important opportunity to reflect, even at school, on the role of the sea in our history and lives, from its being an ecosystem to opportunities to create opportunities for the future of young people.

How does Confindustria Nautica stand on the issue of energy transition to sustainable mobility at sea? Are there any outreach projects you are studying in this regard?

The issue of sustainability is now recognized as an absolute priority in the boating industry both in Italy and abroad. On the occasion of the SATEC Convention scheduled to take place in Genoa on June 30, in collaboration with IBI International Boat Industry we will organize the Shaping the Future, World Yachting Sustainability Forum conference that will feature key industry stakeholders and international representatives to discuss the profile of the next generation of consumers, how to optimize new technologies, and the path to tomorrow’s sustainable industry. Within Confindustria Nautica we have, in addition, established the Sustainability Committee, in which representatives from all product categories of our Members participate. Experts are involved in the meetings, based on the main topics being discussed, such as decarbonization, innovative materials, digitization, and end-of-life. Also on the international front, our Association is committed to sustainability issues through its contribution in the European industry federation EBI and the world federation ICOMIA. In fact, lobbying actions on these issues turn out to be essential in order to ensure that companies in our sector can make an adequate transition to the new environmental requirements: in fact, making decision makers understand the specificities of our sector turns out to be essential in order to find the best answers to an ecological transition that will undoubtedly be more complex for the maritime economy than for other sectors, first and foremost automotive.

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