The Port of Gioia Tauro in southern Italy is the largest seaport in Italy and the sixth largest container port in Europe It is situated along the route connecting Suez to Gibraltar, one of the busiest maritime corridors in the World. The port has seven loading docks with an extension of 4,646 metres; in 2007 it had a throughput of 3.7 million TEU's from more than 3,000 ships. The seaport represents more than a third (2002) of the whole National traffic and is specialised in transhipment activities, taking The Place of the Malta seaport as the node for overseas traffic from/to USA and from/to the Far East. The Medcenter Container Terminal (Medcenter, Contship) is the main operator working within the seaport of Gioia Tauro.
'Ndrangheta control of port:
According to a 2006 report, Italian investigators estimate that 80% of Europe's cocaine arrives from Colombia via Gioia Tauro's docks. The port is also involved in the illegal arms trade. These activities are controlled by the 'Ndrangheta. However, according to a report of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and Europol, the Iberian Peninsula is considered the main entry point for cocaine into Europe and a gateway to the European market.
The Piromalli-Molè clan managed to condition the management of the new container terminal. Established in the mid-1990s, it became the largest terminal in the Mediterranean, moving over 2 million containers in 1998. Since 1994, when Contship Italia rented the port area to start transshipment activity and the Medcenter Container Terminal was set up thanks to 138 billion lire (about US$86 million) in state financing, the Piromalli’s aimed to oblige the Medcenter company, through its vice President Walter Lugli, and the Contship company, through its president Enrico Ravano, to pay a kickback of US$1.50 for each transshipped container, a sum which corresponded to about half the net profits earned by the two companies.
In February 2008 the parliamentary Antimafia Commission concluded that the ‘Ndrangheta “controls or influences a large part of the economic activity around the port and uses the facility as a base for illegal trafficking.” In its report it said that “the entire gamma of internal or sub-contracted activities is mafia-influenced, from the management of distribution and forwarding to customs control and container storage.” The extortion of Ravano and Contship, was part of a project that “did not involve simply this security tax, which grew with the port, but also control of activities tied to the port, the hiring of workers, and relations with port unions and local institutions,” the report added. “It effectively eliminated legitimate competition from companies not influenced or controlled by the mafia in providing goods and services, performing construction work and hiring personnel. And it threw a shadow over the behaviour of local government and other public bodies.”