By a judgment of October 20142 – which perhaps did not receive proper attention in due course –, the Regional Administrative Court of Lazio (Latina) issued a ruling on the legitimacy of certain orders made, respectively, by the Port Authority and by the Municipality (each insofar as it is concerned) with a view to appropriately balance the commercial interests of holders of maritime State property concessions and the need for safety and efficiency of port traffic.

More specifically, in 2013, the holder of a concession granted by the Port Authority of Gaeta concerning a body of water for mooring of recreational craft in the New Port of Ventotene asked the Regional Court of Lazio to dismiss various orders rejecting the application addressed to competent authorities for a supplementary licence for the summer season.

The project submitted to obtain a supplementary licence involved the extension of the body of water under concession and the installation of a floating dock system on the new area under concession, which was designed to operate only in the time slots between the times of arrival to and departure from the port of ferry liners.

The Port Authority of Gaeta and the City of Ventotene – in accordance with the view expressed by the other authorities involved – rejected the application for a supplementary seasonal licence by way of numerous orders, which led the concession holder to submit the matter to the Regional Administrative Court of Lazio. The Court was asked, inter alia, to ascertain the illegitimacy of the rejection orders due to breach of applicable laws and regulations on maritime State property concessions and safety within ports.

At the end of the proceedings, the Regional Administrative Court rejected the applicant’s claim in all respects, on the grounds mentioned below.

Preliminarily, it is worth noting that the grounds illustrated in the judgment are not based on review of the facts of the case only. As a result, a sort of standard concerning port safety is identified, that is designed to become, if not a real principle, a common practice for all maritime authorities of Italian ports.

More specifically, concerning the case at issue, it should be noted that the orders rejecting the application for a seasonal supplementary licence acknowledged and endorsed the results of an inquiry expressly documenting the potential dangerousness for navigation of the extension of a body of water previously granted to the concessionaire.

Furthermore, the Regional Administrative Court Lazio recognised that the notion of «protection of safety within ports» should not only apply to vessels sailing and mooring, but also to vessels approaching and leaving the port.

As a natural consequence of this, in the Regional Administrative Court’s opinion, an order by a competent authority against the extension of a mooring space should be deemed legitimate when it may result in a direct reduction of the vacant spaces needed for vessel manoeuvring and affect the operations intended for safety within the port.

In any event, the Regional Administrative Court of Lazio concluded that, for both safety and efficiency of port operations, the conditions and timeframes of entrance and exit of ships operating on a regular schedule (liners) should be conditional on the time of stay of pleasure craft in the area already granted under concession.

The reference to liners should not be underestimated and, indeed, it is precisely to liners that the principle should be deemed applicable.

For vessels other than liners, the necessity for a terminal to host large vessels (which is now felt to be crucial in all Italian ports) might indeed prevail, with time constraints on access and manoeuvring being consequently imposed upon transiting vessels.

So, once again, the games are still open.