The question may seem trivial but, under certain circumstances, the answer could be not so obvious. If it is true that all authorisations – including, therefore, those granted under Article 16 of Italian Port Law (No. 84/94) – have an “expiry” date set out in them, it is likewise true that, in particular cases envisaged by the above-mentioned law, the “expiry” date of an authorisation (formally specified) might in fact be exceeded pursuant to the law provisions.

More specifically, this may happen when a company authorised under Article 16 of Italian Port Law No. 84/94 acts as a concessionaire under Article 18 of the same law.

As is known, Port System Authorities may grant concessions for State-owned areas and quays in a port to companies authorised under Article 16 of Italian Port Law No. 84/94 (see Article 18, paragraph 1)[1]. Pursuant to Article 16, paragraph VI, of such law, an authorisation under Article 16 “shall have a duration in accordance with the operational programme proposed by the company or, where the authorised company is also a concession-holder under Article 18, a duration that is identical to that of the concession.

This is precisely the case we had in mind, that makes the question in the title not so trivial as it may appear at first sight.

In other words, from the above provision it would appear that – regardless of the duration formally stipulated in an authorisation under Article 16 of Italian Port Law (one year, four years, etc.) – an authorisation can (rectius: shall) be deemed extended – by law – to match the expiry date of the relevant concession under Article 18 in the event that the authorised company is precisely a concessionaire.

In practical terms, this would mean that – as long as the concession under Article 18 is in place – the concession-holder will not have to submit any application for renewing its authorisation under Article 16 (if such authorisation is by fortuitous circumstances of a shorter duration). Indeed, in such event, the company holding a concession under Article 18, being already authorised by law under Article 16 up to the concession’s end date, might just be required to provide the competent Port System Authority with information and documents attesting that “it complies with the terms of the operational programme” (see Article 16, paragraph VI, Law No. 84/94) and that “it still meets the requirements set out at the time when the concession was granted and is implementing the investments involved in the programme of activities under paragraph 6, a)” (see Article 18, paragraph VIII of the same law).

This will allow the Authority to carry out its annual checks – under above-mentioned law– in connection with the authorisations under Article 16 and concessions under Article 18.

The “coincidence” that Italian port law as a matter of fact requires between the term of authorisations under Article 16 and that of concessions under Article 18 held by the same company may after all seem reasonable and understandable. How could indeed a company benefit from its concession under Article 18 without an authorisation to perform port operations? On the other hand, as mentioned above, under Article 16 the relevant authorisation represents a precondition for the concession under Article 18.

At the same time and for the same reason, one cannot understand how the activity of a concessionaire may be subject to the positive outcome of one or more procedures for the renewal of any authorisation under Article 16 that may “expire” during the longer period of duration of the concession.

This would be like a sword of Damocles placed on the concessionaire and equally unacceptable for him, being inconsistent with the needs of certainty and planning that are inherent in his activity.

If it is true that a concessionaire acting in compliance with all statutory provisions should not face any obstacles in obtaining the renewal of its authorisation under Article 16, it is also true that, on the one hand, this approach would seem be contrary to the law and, on the other, it would make the operation of a company (whenever a renewal is required) subject to the outcome of administrative procedures (never to be taken for granted for various reasons). This clearly conflicts, as already pointed out, with the needs of certainty and planning that are typically involved in the activities of a concessionaire.

For the sake of completeness, it should also be noted that, like in all the other cases – that is to say, whenever the company holding an authorisation under Article 16 is not also a concessionaire – the duration of the authorisation is that stipulated in it and determined, according to the law, in accordance with the operational programme of the company concerned (which shall in particular specify both traffic and investment perspectives).