Port City Scenarios During and After Covid-19: The case of Livorno

Barbara Bonciani - Councilor for port and port-city integration at the Municipality of Livorno; external Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Pisa; Research associate Ircres Cnr (National research council)

The Covid-19 crisis has changed the face of many cities as people change their lifestyles, mobility and consumption patterns. In port cities, it has had a serious impact on port and logistic activities. The Covid-19 crisis raises the question of how to manage urban life and socio-economic problems in the wake of a pandemic, and requires new scenarios.

Around 80 percent of global trade is transported by commercial shipping, and intra-Mediterranean maritime trade flows account for nearly 25% of global traffic volume. The global Covid-19 containment policies have seriously affected sea transport, damaging trade flows and supply chains. In Livorno, as in other Italian ports, vessel traffic and shipping industry were severely impacted. Vessel traffic including ro-ro, lo-lo, container and break bulk dropped for about 30-40% within a few months. The Covid-19 crisis has seriously impacting cruise and passengers transport, the tourism industry and relevant jobs locally and regionally.

The port of Livorno is one of the main transit calls in the Mediterranean area for cruise ships. The importance of the port of Livorno for cruise tourism is due to the vicinity of touristic destinations, such as Pisa, Florence and Lucca. Over the last years, the number of cruise passengers has considerably increased in Livorno. In 2019, the city-port counted 835.500 passengers from cruises (+6,66% compared to the previous year). Tourists are mostly day-visitors; their consumption is mainly related to shopping, guided tours and on-land excursions. Not only the social and economic impact of the cruise sector is important for the city, but also the employment generated in the port terminal facilities and in the cruise integrated value chain. According to a study by the Port Network Authority (ADSP Mts 2020), the cruise crisis has generated an estimated loss of some 53 to 64 million Euros in 2020, which has a deep impact on the Livorno economy. The situation is still one of absolute uncertainty and it is difficult to predict whether or not cruises will start again between now and the end of the year.

Open Governance Strategy: The city and the port of Livorno developing joint solutions
From the beginning of the crisis, the Mayor of the city of Livorno and the Councillor for port and port city integration decided to start a new governance strategy. Together with the North Tyrrhenian Port Network Authority, the harbour master, the main maritime and logistic associations (industrial, ship owners, shipping agent) and Labour unions have chosen to collaboratively supervise and manage the impact of Covid-19 on economic activities in both city and port. The new open governance tool created by the Municipality of Livorno (the Mayor of Livorno and the Councillor for port and port-city integration), called “Cabina di regia città porto” (City-Port Direction Cabinet) aims to support companies and workers with socio-economic emergencies and help them face the uncertainties generated by the pandemic. The Cabina, coordinated by the City of Livorno, has been created to provide support to port operators, logistics companies and workers during Covid-19, discussing challenges and developing innovative coexistence solutions.

For the city ​​of Livorno, the port is the main driver of development. It is therefore clear that in a moment of crisis, such as the one created by Covid-19, the city is deeply involved in looking for social and economic innovative solutions. The crisis affects not only the port, but also the city and the cruise line value chain. The most immediate danger from an urban point of view are the economic consequences of the crisis and the social stability of the local community. The preservation of employment was vital in order to guarantee social stability. The city and the port community needed to strengthen their relationship in order to discuss challenges that the port and the city are both facing, and to develop innovative solutions together. All the stakeholders have been involved in the process by developing a problem-solving approach.

The first challenge that the stakeholders had to face was to develop a coexistence solution to manage the cruise and ferry shut-down. In the city-port of Livorno, the passenger terminal was seriously damaged by the government’s decision to stop all cruise and ferry ships. In order to support the affected companies and manage the social and economic impact of the cruise sector crisis, the Cabina asked the North Tyrrhenian Port Network Authority to take action at the ministerial level, with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport. Specifically, it asked to promote the extension of Art. 92 of the Cura Italia Decree (a 25 billion Euro incentive programme of the Italian national government) also to passenger terminals (concessionaires ex. Art. 36 of the Navigation Code) once converted into law.

To increase social stability, the salary integration fund, established to create a temporary social safety net during and after COVID-19 has been made a permanent feature as part of the port city dialogue for all the staff. The Municipality also set up an inter-sectoral work group to support the Port Network Authority in developing an Implementation Plan to help seasonal workers find employment solutions. After two months, all the seasonal workers were employed by the terminal with Covid-19 prevention tasks. This is was a very important goal for the city in order to preserve social stability. The work of the Cabina continues in order to supervise and manage the impact of the pandemic to port and city economic activities.

This blog has been written in the context of the RETE Webinar on May 4th, 2020.


Bonciani, Barbara. “The Economic Contribution of Cruise Crew to Livorno Call: The Port-City Management Implications.” Portus Plus - the Online Journal of RETE VII, no. 7 (October 2017).

Adsp MTS. “Analisi dell’impatto del Covid-19 nel settore crocieristico a Livorno” (2020).