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Family Aid 2020
   Vol. 21 No. 20
Tuesday May 17, 2022

Francesco Parisi Propels Trieste Port

Francesco Parisi

     On my way to collect Francesco Parisi from Turin’s train station on Friday 29th of April, I received an email from Geoffrey, which demanded: “Would so appreciate a story with Francesco. He is a beautiful human being . . . When he is in our issue he makes us all look good. Perhaps you can have him talk and predict ocean or something connected to gateway Trieste?”
     Francesco was in fact coming to Turin on the invitation of the local Propeller Club to talk about his experience at the head of his company, Francesco Parisi spa, the most historical forwarding and logistics enterprise in Italy. The title we chose for his speech was: "From 1807 to globalization and beyond" and obviously this was going to include a fair bit about the port of Trieste and its importance in European logistics. Clearly this coincidence made my task easy. Having organized a follow-up with a visit to the unique Egyptian Museum of Turin, I was also going to spend Saturday with Francesco and his wife Marina. In town was also another person our readers already know: Nicolette van der Jagt, the DG of CLECAT in Brussels, who joined us for dinner. Nicolette had planned to visit the surrounding countryside hills in Moncalvo, Turin’s museums, restaurants and all the rest. In her own words: “And yes, Turin was so enjoyable . . . Still more to discover, so will be back no doubt.”

Francesco, marina, Tomaso and Matteo Parisi

     In other words, starting on April 29th until May 1st I found myself inside a serendipity cloud in my hometown and effortlessly gathered the material required by Geoffrey. Here are the main points that Francesco touched upon in his applauded speech at the local Propeller Club.
     Francesco Parisi, assisted by his sons Tomaso and Matteo, manages the most historic forwarding company in Italy, now in its eighth generation as a family business. On 1 January 1807 the founder, also called Francesco Parisi, opened the company in search of new outlets, coming from Rovereto, IT, in which the silk-spinning family business was suffering. Within the continental Austro-Hungarian Empire Trieste was rapidly developing as its new great harbour, attracting initiatives and businesses from the Slavic, German and Italian provinces, without forgetting the Greeks, Egyptians and Turks, all flocking to the new hub. Trieste is closer to the Ukrainian border than it is to Naples and sits at the same distance from Turin as Munich, Vienna and Budapest. This explains the prevailing interest of Trieste for central European traffic.
     In the 30s of the nineteenth century large enterprises such as Assicurazioni Generali, Lloyd Austriaco (later Triestino) and Fratelli Cosulich were established, and Parisi flourished along with the growth of the city and its trade. In 1857 the southern railway opened connections to Vienna and Parisi opened its first branch in Vienna, the capital of the empire. Other dates are less certain (http://www.trasporti-fvg.it/english/ferr1.htm) for the connection to Venice, where Parisi opened shop in 1872, then Prague in 1877, in 1879 Munich, then Milan in 1898, all new branches for the growing company.
     Against any public persuasion, World War I suddenly broke out causing the Austro-Hungarian empire to collapse, along with the Russian and Ottoman. The world around Trieste changed suddenly and fundamentally. In 1919 a family member was writing “everything becomes difficult in this fragmentation of the hinterland of the Adriatic ports.” Yet the company, led at that point by Francesco’s grandfather from Venice, recovered and expanded again, even opening branches in Athens and Constantinople. Unfortunately, with the changes later occurring with World War II, Parisi lost half of its organization, i.e. the part quartered beyond the iron curtain.
     Francesco entered the family business for good in 1976, upon his arrival in Trieste, and was worried about the progressive marginalization of the port and the city: there was a lot of uncertainty about keeping the headquarters in Trieste, a choice that in time proved to be right. Parisi is today a dynamic company, open to large distant markets, such as those of Asia and the Americas and keeps pace with the changes of our troubled modern times through prudent, conspicuous investments in Italy and abroad (today it operates in 14 countries, employing 950 FTE’s).
     In his comprehensive lecture Francesco also explained the historical and geopolitical framework of the relaunch of Trieste, which was so instrumental in his family’s fortunes. On November 9th 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, on May 1st 2004 four countries that were part of the historic hinterland of the port of Trieste (Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic) entered the EU and from 2007 progressively the Schengen area, followed by Croatia in 2013: within 25 years the unity and open economic space of the empire in which Francesco Parisi SpA had been working, was restored.
     In addition, after a long race, China became the first trading power of the world in 2015, reaching a 13.8% global export share, the highest ever reached by a single nation after the USA in 1968. In macroeconomic terms, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe recorded GDP growth rates 30 to 50% higher than those in Western Europe. Almost all investments in new automotive production, a fundamental engine for transport flows, took place in Eastern Europe, in Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Turkey, etc. Consequently, the North-Adriatic and Trieste at its cusp once again glowed as an ideal location for the distribution of goods as they did in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
     The Trieste Logistics Platform Project was another point of interest touched by Parisi to explain the novel importance of Trieste for the whole of Eastern Europe. In 2011 the company was invited to participate in the design, construction, maintenance and management of the Logistics Platform within the port of Trieste. Twelve hectares east of the old city were allocated to this development with a public-private project. The eyes of world logistics focused again on Trieste, as the Platform was the only new infrastructure under construction in 2016. As we know, nobody works in isolation in logistics . . . The first to take an interest in the project were important Chinese operators from Hong Kong. In agreement with the Port Authority of Trieste, a series of meetings followed but did not end up in a deal. After the exclusive rights of the Chinese had expired, in the summer of 2019 a new negotiation started with HHLA in Hamburg. In spite of the difficulty imposed by the pandemic, the need for huge financial resources, and even more the need to operate within a European network, champion in container traffic, made the deal that had not been possible before, with an agreement intervening to integrate Trieste into a geographical network connecting the Baltic, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea under the aegis of the HHLA.
     In conclusion Francesco confirmed that his company’s revenues in 2021 followed the evolution of air and sea freight rates, which are the raw material of the forwarder, and literally exploded. “After having overcome two world wars with great impact on our core markets, we were not afraid of the radical structural changes we have experienced in the past two decades, but two months after the invasion of Ukraine and without yet having completely stopped the pandemic,” Francesco admitted, “I would hesitate to doubtlessly repeat this statement now,” concluded Francesco Parisi, greeted by a warm applause.
Marco Sorgetti

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