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.
The Piromalli 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.”