Industry mourns the loss of Cecilia Eckelmann Battistello


She did not hesitate to generate controversy, remaining faithful to the provocative style that has always characterized her entrepreneurial leadership. 

Cecilia Eckelmann Battistello © Angelo Scorza / Contship Italia

Cecilia Eckelmann Battistello, President of Contship Italia and wife of Thomas Eckelmann, owner of the Eurokai group that has controlled Contship since the late 1990s, has passed away abruptly at the age of 73.

Born in 1950 in the province of Vicenza, north east Italy as the second of eight siblings to a mechanic, she joined Contship in 1973 almost from its foundation (in 1969) by the Ligurian entrepreneur and shipowner Angelo Ravano. She travelled the world and later based herself in the office in Cadenazzo, Ticino (Switzerland), overseeing the commercial development of the Contship Containerlines maritime transport division.

In 1997, three years after Ravano’s death, the navigation business unit was sold to the German company CP Ships (now part of Hapag-Lloyd), and Battistello took over the leadership of Contship Italia, the branch dedicated to port terminal management.

The company had already been operating for years in La Spezia with the LSCT terminal and was a key player during the establishment of the transhipment hub MCT Medcenter Container Terminal in Gioia Tauro, inaugurated in October 1995 (but in 2020 sold to MSC Group).

In 1999, Contship was sold to the German Eurokai group of the Eckelmann family, who were already 34% shareholders in the Italian company and helped design LSCT in order to maximise its container throughput capacity despite a relatively small “footprint.”

Battistello, renown for her colorful outfits, including the famous all-pink suit (the colour adopted as the corporate brand by Sogemar’s trucks and Oceanogate’s railway locomotives, and primarily by the famous Contsip Germany container vessel in mid ‘90s), continued in her role alongside the new owner Thomas Eckelmann, to whom she was already romantically tied and they married in 1996.

The 2000s were years of significant growth and development for the group, present in seven Italian ports – Ravenna, Cagliari, Salerno, Savona, Livorno (the last two for a short while) as well as La Spezia and Gioia Tauro.

However, towards the end of the next decade, the company disengaged from Cagliari due to a transhipment activity crisis, leaving behind controversy and difficulties in finding a new operator to revitalize the port of the Sardinian capital.

Contship also sold its half of the other transhipment facility, MCT Medcenter Container Terminal in Gioia Taur,o to the MSC group. Henceforth it focused primarily on the LSCT terminal in La Spezia and logistic and intermodal activities operated through Oceanogate, which pivots around Rail Hub Milano in Melzo intermodal hub.

Throughout these phases, sometimes delicate and complex, of Contship Italia’s corporate history, Cecilia Eckelmann Battistello always remained at the forefront, taking clear positions (at times, as a staunch independent terminal operator, against the dominance of liner companies), occasionally agaisnt the wishes of parts of her own management.

She did not hesitate to generate controversy, remaining faithful to the direct and intentionally provocative style that has always characterized her entrepreneurial leadership.

Written by Angelo Scorza