The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's long term financing institution, is advancing a EUR 250 million(1) loan to the Italian ministry of Infrastructure and Transport and Port Authorities(2) for investment projects aimed at improving the efficiency of 21 Italian ports. The loan, to be channelled via Banca OPI, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SanPaolo IMI S.p.A., has been granted at particularly competitive conditions in terms of cost (sub-Euribor) and duration, well-adapted to a large infrastructure operation of this nature. The loan is the first tranche of a EUR 450m facility approved by the EIB in favour of the investment programme of Port Authorities. The second tranche remains to be allocated at similarly advantageous conditions.

The investments to be financed under the facility represent a concrete step towards the modernisation of the major Italian ports, including the development of sea highways, in line with the current EU strategy. Furthermore, these investments will contribute to the development of maritime transport links among EU member States and between these and third countries, in particular fostering growth of traffic and integration of economic activities in the Mediterranean basin. All ports included in the project belong to the transeuropean network of transport infrastructures.

The main Italian ports generally have adequate infrastructure (for example quay capacity). However, there are deficiencies, particularly in the links between port areas and the main transport networks, and in on-land storage equipment and facilities.

The EIB, the European Union's long-term financing institution, funds capital investment promoting European integration in fields such as: regional development, trans-European transport, telecommunications and energy networks, industrial competitiveness and integration, SMEs, environmental protection and secure energy supplies. The EIB also operates outside the EU within the framework of the Community's aid and cooperation policy. The EIB, owned by the Member States, raises its resources on the capital markets (issuer with "AAA" rating). In 2000, the EIB provided financing worth around EUR 36 billion, of which EUR 5.6 billion in Italy. 

(1) 1 EUR = 1936.27 ITL, 0.6304 GBP.

(2) There are 21 Port Authorities in Italy, under the control of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport.