The notion of competitive advantage refers to the result of a strategy that enables a company to occupy and maintain a favourable position in the markets in which it operates and that tends to translate into a higher profitability than the average of the actual and potential competitors.
The basic and imperative target for any company is to create value. From that it ensues that the most important company decisions concerning competitive strategy must be directed and adapted to such value creation, since the latter goes inevitably through the achievement of competitive advantages.
The search for the determinants of such advantages are, therefore, a central target for any competitiveness strategy, either carried out at the level of each individual company or at the one of more complex situations.
At the level of port terminal the search for the competitive advantage is a very delicate question, since the interests, the companies and the subjects involved are many and very different from one another.
Starting from such premises, the purpose of this treatise has been to try and understand the increasing complexity of the port terminals, especially from the 80’s on, and the present and future possibilities for competitive growth, via the presentation of projects and proposals prepared by “professionals” on the subject.
The first chapter will evidence, first of all, the evolution of the port, from a landing place to a complex system for the creation of added value to the goods, highlighting the growing complexities of the terminals. After that it will try to identify, with reference to the main European ports, the primary determinants that create or not a competitive advantage compared with the competitors.
Then, in the last paragraph, it supplies an overall picture about the enormous development potential of the Mediterranean terminals, thanks to the exponential increase of the world trade and to the strategic positioning of the “Mare Nostrum” as regards the main world trade routes, underlining how this is possible via the evolution of the internal competitiveness of the Mediterranean port systems.
The second chapter focuses first of all on the possible short and medium/long term solutions which will make it possible, if applied efficiently and adequately, to recover the competitive gap of the domestic ports compared with the Mediterranean competitors as well as with the European and World ones, and therefore to optimize the competitive management of the Italian port terminals.
Some considerations follow about the impact and the implementation of logistics and of the new technologies in order to achieve competitiveness at port level.
The third paragraph gives a summary presentation of the main domestic projects, such as the SIS-TEMA project, the TROVATORE, CCS, etc.
The last three paragraphs of chapter 2 cover a brief introduction which underlines the importance of the training and education of the terminal workers and presents the methods adopted for the preparation of a reference manual, intended for the main Mediterranean ports, called “Handbook of Simulator Training in the Port Sector”.
This manual, which explains the correct methods for training the workers via the use of simulators, has been prepared, on request of some Mediterranean Port Authorities (Leghorn, Marseilles and Valencia in particular), with the cooperation of the School of Higher Education “Sant’Anna” in Pisa and of the Koper Port Authority (Croatia).
It is necessary to specify that such manual is still in the experimental phase; it will be presented in the next few months to the Port Authorities mentioned above, which will give their opinions, either positive or negative, for the practical implementation of the educational project.
The third chapter presents a report on the above project, which describes the correct methods for the planning of the training programs via the use of a simulator and for the assessment of the results, focusing on the financial and know-how returns for the company and for the terminals, via an in-depth cost/benefit analysis.
In conclusion, the goal of this work is to try an explanation and description, in the most accurate possible way, the complexity of the port system and the problems of the search for the competitive advantage, which in the last 20 years has become a true “headache” for the port systems of the Mediterranean Sea and especially for the Italian ones.