As COVID-19 has shut down Italy talking of what is happening on the
ground in Italian logistics right now opens the door for a conversation
with some hardworking freight forwarders.
Despite the shut down everywhere else, the
logistics industry is open for business in Italy as you read this update.
Marco Sorgetti spoke with two close Italian
friends, who are very active in the business of logistics—Francesco
Parisi and Antonella Straulino. Francesco is former FIATA President and
owner of one of the oldest active freight forwarding and logistics companies
in Europe, founded in 1807.
FlyingTypers published Marco’s profiles
on both Francesco and Antonella in these pages.
Francesco and I discussed the options left
to Italian logistics amid the coronavirus shock, and he told me that borrowing
former President Bush’s comment to explain what is happening in
Italy is apt:
“The restrictions stop people, not
goods,” he said.
Journey to Immense Change
“We are in the middle of the third
week after discovery of the first case of the coronavirus infection and
we are experiencing what we never thought could happen,” Francesco
“Until last week, there was a great
underestimation about the danger,” he continued.
“But everything changed on Sunday
(March 8) with the first strict regulation imposedby our government, impeding
the movement of people in parts of the Northern Italian territory, followed
immediately on Monday with the extension of the same restrictions to the
entire national territory (60 million residents) and now, by a further
restriction closing all retail shops that are not considered vital (except
foodstuff, pharmaceuticals, essential services), all hotels, restaurant,
coffee shops, pubs, etc. all must strictly shut shop as of today, [March
12th] until March 25th.”
New Image Not Seen Before
Francesco says, “The image of our
cities has suddenly changed, everywhere in sight looks like early Sunday
morning has occupied the whole day.
Non-Stop Transport & Logistics
“Considering the structure of our
economy (widespread SME’s, principally export oriented) and the
possible dramatic damage that could result from a full closure of factories
for a few weeks, our government has decided to allow manufacturing and
services to continue operations, however under strict health rules.
Transport and Logistics is fully operational (carriers – road and
rail – as well as infrastructure, ports, airports, warehousing),”
“Our Company’s offices have
staff on site reduced by 50%, with 25% working from home (what Italians
have called ‘smart working’) and the rest on holiday. “Volumes
are at a steady pace compared to previous weeks.
We Shall Fight & Work It Out
“The experience from these first four ‘curfew’
days is remarkable: shippers and carriers are very cooperative, ‘smart
working’ staff is extremely productive, overseas agents are very
helpful . . . the only real business concern now is lack of capacity on
container vessels for export cargo for the next two months (due to the
previous month’s blank sailings) as well as lack of airfreight capacity
due to passenger flight cancellations.
“If we can circumvent these problems, we
shall fight and live to work it out,” Francesco Parisi declared.
Antonella & Milan Logistics
I also managed to get Antonella Straulino,
who is the international voice (amongst her many other functions) of Fedespedi,
the Italian freight forwarders’ federation.
Antonella, truly is a community-driven and, for
that matter, through her years of great work at FIATA, a heart and soul
force for good. She lives in Milan where Fedespedi’s registered
office is located.
I asked her to share her feelings about
the situation in light of her daily interactions with the business.
“This morning the news is we shall
have a field hospital mounted in the former “Fiera di Milano”
area in the center of Milan, which will be able to handle 600 new intensive
care units and this will be ready in about a week,” she said.
“I am pleased to see that Milan is
showing resilience and determination.
“Logistics will certainly play its
part to realize this project authorized by Rome.
“The additional care available will
relieve the strain in our hospitals, which have been undergoing unprecedented
pressure in these times.
Health Care System Is Working
“I have to say that our National Health
System is showing what can be done by the relatively modest investment
that the Italian state makes in public health. “Having
had to test our NHS’s effectiveness for personal reasons in the
past, I hope that our colleagues around the world will not have to suffer
the dire straits we are in.
“Considering that our NHS is one of
the best in the world and has several decades’ of performance, I
am appalled at what could happen if other countries are affected in the
same proportion and said countries may now have to rely on comparable
Every Hand Helps
“For my part I am trying to assist
companies, local associations and entrepreneurs, from my home desk, providing
communications, documents and help in any way I (humbly) can.
Communication Is Key
“Open dialogue and communication are
key: with customers, unions, other associations, public and private bodies.
“In the end we are all in the same
boat and we need to all row in the same direction,” Antonella said.
Freight Fowarding On The Job
“I have to commend our Fedespedi members,
really being on the front-line, trying to keep the flow of goods moving,
notwithstanding bans from other countries, lack of trucks and drivers,
understandable fears and sometimes misleading messages.
“Freight forwarding and logistics
(unlike my job) cannot be performed by merely staying at home; our companies
are trying to cope with the situation, with staff also partially working
Reaching Out Helping Others
“Our schools and universities are
showing the way, as many of them have converted themselves into ‘virtual
“I am also trying to assist in this
area and I have to say that the experience gained in the many years I
spent working in FIATA’s Advisory Body Vocational Training certainly
came in handy at this time.
No Sitting Still In Crises
“I heard this morning that we are
celebrating the first ‘online degrees’ at LUISS University
and other universities.
“There will be no ‘spumante’
pouring into the glasses, but we shall have more doctors, which is better
than sitting idle and doing nothing,” Anto declared.
“This shows,” Antonella insists,
“that the country does not wish to stop and that ‘andrà
tutto bene’ [all will end up well]!”
Marco shared this touching video that begins from the
window of an apartment in Napoli.
Take five minutes and listen to the voices of hope in
song drifting up from open hearts as Italians share and sing for a
moment in the COVID-19 crises.
Not since Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania gathered and literally
sang the Russians out of the Baltics in 1991 has there been a scene
Singing may not cure the virus, but shoulders against
the struggle worldwide, the music sure beats a punch in the nose.