Two workers are still missing and seven were found dead at the Port of Genoa, after the Jolly Nero, a cargo ship, hit the pilots’ control tower on the night of Tuesday May 7. The city is in mourning. There was a 15 minutes stoppage during the morning of Wednesday, observed in schools, the university, shops, banks and industry. The Port workers were on strike until 1 pm.
Thousands of people – workers and ordinary people shocked by a tragedy that happened in the very heart of Genoa, its Port – gathered in Matteotti Square to remember the victims. But when Monsignor Molinari, head of the city work chaplains, began to speak, many workers and citizens protested.
“The workers have to speak,” they said, accusing the union confederations of not having upheld the strike. “They wanted us to work in the Port among the victims. We have been waiting for years for the institutions to start to protect us. Yesterday morning (May 8) the unions wanted to end the strike at 12, but we said no, you cannot work while scuba divers are still looking for bodies. The strike will last until 1 pm today. They asked us to work during a tragedy so that sacred productivity would not be interrupted.”
They also disagreed with the decision only to suspend cargo and not passenger traffic. They said: “There were ships passing with tourists who took umpteen pictures of the tragedy. But we don’t forget.”
In fact, the first words interrupting the speech were directed against the Messina Line, owner of the Jolly Nero. “They’ve created too much damage all around the world: we can’t stand it any more.”
As the newspaper Il Manifesto remembers, the ships of the Messina Line have been involved in many accidents in recent years: in Genoa in 2002 one of its ships hit a dock tearing down a 40 meter crane, and in 2009 another ship had an accident which killed two of the crew; along the coast of Campania, two people were killed when a trawler was rammed by the Jolly Blu in 2003. Most recently, in August 2011, the Jolly Grigio sank a trawler off the coast of Ischia. It took the captain ten minutes to realise, manoeuvre and return to give help.
But the Messina Line is not just famous for accidents. Its name is well known to anyone interested in the eco-mafia. Indeed, Messina was investigated about the sinking of ships loaded with toxic waste in the Mediterranean, organized by the ‘Ndrangheta mafia. In 1990, Messina’s Jolly Rosso washed up on the Calabrian coast after being abandoned by its crew and being adrift for hours. Officially, nothing illegal was found, but strong suspicions remain, as radioactive waste was found in the bed of the river Olivo, a few kilometers away. These suspicions were strengthened by the death of Captain Natale Di Grazia, poisoned whilst investigations of the Jolly Rosso were being carried out.
In 2010, the Jolly Amaranto was prevented from entering the port of Alexandria for three days because of its ‘incompatible’ cargo, and then sank. The Jolly Rubino was washed up on a South African beach following a fire, causing severe environmental damage, in 2002.
And there’s yet another reason why Messina is being attacked by workers in Genoa: some months ago, the ship owner requested a pilot exemption certificate for use in Genoa, meaning that ships would enter and leave the port using their own crew and not a specialist local pilot for such delicate work. And the same would happen with loading and unloading. “They want deregulation,” the workers state clearly from Il Manifesto’s pages, whilst also highlighting the safety risks of such a change.