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Dream of a ship
The new sea connection between Venice (Italy), Syria and Egypt, by Carla Dodi (English version)
Articolo di AMMARARE
Consultato 8498 volte

del 17-05-2010

It is the time of stopping-flights volcanoes; time of airports and airlines in state of alert because of terrorism risk. Today, moving by ship is not only the dream of a few romantic and adventurous travellers. Moreover, cargo ships are still necessary to carry a vast array of goods which are not transportable by plane, train or (only) roadways. The Visemar One ship, just launched, will sail on May 20th 2010, for a weekly Ro/Pax service (wheeled cargos and passengers) between Venice (Italy), Tartous (Syria) and Alexandria (Egypt). Departure from Venice is scheduled every Thursday, with arrival to Tartous on Sunday morning and to Alexandria on Monday morning. The ship has a top speed of 24 knots and very fast transit time in the ports; it can carry 200 trucks, 70 cars and 325 passengers. The new service is operated by Visemar Line Company (www.visemarline.com), a joint venture between Visentini and Tositti, two Italian companies of Veneto Region. Venice Port Authority promotes this initiative.


Mediterranean Motorways of the Sea
del 17-05-2010

The new service is a Motorway of the Sea, crossing all Adriatic Sea to the Middle East direction. It recalls the big trade routes which have constantly linked Venice to the Levant. It refers also to the (not very) old Egitto Express by Adriatica Company: up to 1992, this ship carried passengers and vehicles between Venice and Alexandria (www.janula.it/ammarare, article: “Il sogno di Alessandria”). Instead of carrying goods only by land, Motorways of the Sea are regarded today as a competitive option: that is the definition of road-sea transport services of goods. Trucks, trailers and semi-trailers, swap bodies and other containers carry goods from the starting point to destination, going from roads to ships and vice versa. It is a multimodal chain of transport operations which are linked in a fluid and economic way. This system permits to decrease road traffic, reducing also traffic accidents and pollution. Motorways of the Sea programme benefits from substantial funds, especially by the European Union (Marco Polo II programme, period: 2007-2013).


The green boat
del 17-05-2010

Visemar One enters the “Green Corridor”. This initiative aims at strengthening the cooperation between Italy and Egypt in the agro-food sector. The new ship will carry fresh fruits and vegetables from Egypt to Venice: they will be able to reach different markets of Northern Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Austria in less than 72 hours. Egyptian products will reach European markets in fixed periods and quantities, according to seasonality and complementarity with European production. This idea comes from an increasing demand of agro-food products in Europe, where the cost of labour is high and productive capacity is reduced. So, Egyptian products have to achieve the quality standards required by European markets. The Green Corridor is funded by the “Debt-for-Development Swap” Program (phase two: 2007-2012) of the Italian Cooperation in Egypt (www.utlcairo.org → English → Our projects in Egypt → 19. Debt for Development Swap).
On the Tyrrhenian side – but more on the Ligurian Sea – this ship gives rise to discussions: several people are probably worried about this “Green Corridor” escape to the Adriatic-Ionian side. They think that economic sustainability of the new sea connection will be hard when public funds will be over (www.greenreport.it/_new/index.php?page=default&id=4653). The main problem seems to be the time of fresh fruits and vegetables transport from south to north: the ship will sail also in other seasons, all year round, even if that kind of goods will not be available. Someone wonders how to fill the ship from Venice to the south. More conciliatory people assume that other kind of goods will be carried on the ship, those goods now following the same itinerary by other forms of transport.

Photo: a market of Alexandria, 2008 (© Carla Dodi).


On the trail of Corto Maltese
del 17-05-2010

There is also passenger transport. It would be hard to rely only on that, in supporting the new service during poor seasons of fruits and vegetables transport. Anyway, there will be Arab citizens living in Europe and travelling to the south with their cars, tourists and adventurers, travellers terrorized by flights, Corto Maltese’s followers. The number of passengers would not be that meagre. There could be an important Mediterranean sea traffic of passengers and vehicles between Syria and Egypt: now people travel via Red Sea to avoid crossing Israel, but all this trip is not very smooth. You have to cross all Jordan by land, up to Aqaba, where you can embark for Nuweiba in Sinai, an Egyptian village located at more than 450 km from Cairo. Syrian port of Tartous could also collect passengers and goods coming from (or going to) Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia or other countries of the Middle East.
If Hugo Pratt had been alive today, he would have put his handsome seaman Corto Maltese on board of the Visemar One. Stopping in Venice, the dearest city of the great cartoonist Pratt, the unforgettable Corto Maltese is involved (in 1921) in an extraordinary adventure researching the magic emerald called “Solomon’s Clavicle”. This story, published in 1977, has – not accidentally – a double title in Italian and Arabic: “Favola di Venezia” and “Sirat Al-Bunduqiyyah” (Fable of Venice). Here, Venice and Alexandria are very often linked by references to the ancient history. You can find also Hipazia, the possible reincarnation of the philosopher, mathematician and astronomer Hypatia who lived in Alexandria between the 4th and 5th century A.D. This historical figure has recently come up again, thanks to “Agora” movie by the Chilean-Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar. Today, nothing is more appropriate than going from the “Fable of Venice” to the “Fable of Alexandria” on board of such a ship.


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