Behind every ship there is an owner. In the past there was just one man at the wheel. As the time went by, it became a Company: an ever-changing character, ever changing as the maritime sector.

You will find some of the people who wrote the history of the Italian merchant navy, leaving a unique mark in Genoa.

People who go on inspiring new generations of ship-owners and entrepreneurs.
Because shipping is one of the world’s most fascinating challenges and Genoa needs to be on central stage.

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Presentation by Franca Acerenza, Nicla Buonasorte e Giovanni Carosio.
Coordinamento di Anna Dentoni. Direzione scientifica di Pierangelo Campodonico.

Thanks to:
Carlo Cameli, Fabrizio Cao di San Marco, Carbofin, CoeClerici, Famiglia Costa, d’Amico Società di Navigazione, Gestion Maritime, Famiglia Giordano,Grimaldi Holding, Famiglia Marsano, Ignazio Messina & C., Ottavio Novella, Famiglia Ravano, Rimorchiatori Riuniti.


“ An ever changing scenario ”

At the beginning of the 20th century the port is still intended as a shelter for the ships and a store for the goods. At the time the owner sees the port as his second home, an addition to his scagno, his office. Right from the docks, the bacàn (the boss) oversees the arrivals and the departures of the ships, checking personally the loading and unloading operations.
Today the port is a changing scenario, it changes meeting the needs of the economy and the global trade, but if the owners too who ask for services and infrastructures that can reduce to the minimum the docking times and the resulting taxes.


“ The originis of a controversial relationship ”

The relationship between the owners and the Italian state is ambivalent. On one hand the state imposes high taxes, on the other distributes subsidies. It can confiscate ships at wartime but it also offers protection should dangers, piracy or international issues occur. The owners reunite to safeguard their interests, but are MPs too, playing an important role and guaranteeing a relevant contribution to updating the laws concerning the shipping sector.


“ Tough people in an all-men world ”

The life on board is hard, the routes risky, the pay is low and discipline is kept through an inflexible hierarchy. The captain is on top his orders cannot be discussed and he is the one allowed to have his wife on board.
The teamwork, tough, is the spirit that keeps the crew united, determines the human and professional relationship and guarantees safety. “be on the same boat” is a proverb that has a deep meaning in such a tough and dangerous world.


“ A constant challenge ”

All along the past century the owners had to make hard technological choices. Wood or steel hulls? Sail or engine propulsion? Coal or gasoline? “Wind is for free”, say the critics of steamers as sailing is declining and the new keeps on being used along with the old. But is also happens that the owners’ choices depend on external factors. A simple new idea by an American truck driver will change shipping forever.


“ The queens of the market ”

The chances to make profit can be unexpected and one should be ready to get them. Sometimes creativity is needed, more often it is the demand to create new trades.
The fluctuations of demand force the owner to be fast in re-purpose his ships originally designed for a different use, or to decide to sell, charter or demolish her.
Every decision is to be taken quickly: an unprofitable ship can be a burden and cause fatal consequences for the company.


“ An ever-developing profession ”

Shipping is an old activity that has not changed for centuries, but has deeply evolved over the last 120 years.
From the old, authoritative father and master, concentrating each and every activity and knowledge on himself, today the ship-owner has changed and has become an entrepreneur of the shipping and rail transport, a manager of public services, industries, banks and real estates.
He no longer works in dusty offices and noisy docks, but works in real time connecting to the world with his digital devices.