Port a good ex­am­ple of China deal

Strate­gic Pi­raeus is set to ex­pand un­der in­vest­ment from COSCO

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By XING ZHI­GANG in Athens and ZHONG NAN in Bei­jing

As China and Europe are tak­ing de­ci­sive mea­sures to im­prove re­gional eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion and goods flows, Pi­raeus Port is on track to be­come the big­gest commercial port in the Mediter­ranean Sea Basin.

COSCO Pa­cific Ltd, a sub­sidiary of COSCO Group, the fifth-largest container ter­mi­nal op­er­a­tor in the world, has in­vested 4.3 bil­lion eu­ros ($5.9 bil­lion) on a 35-year man­age­ment lease for the No 2 and No 3 piers in Pi­raeus Port, which it has been op­er­at­ing since June 2010.

Be­cause the Mediter­ranean is a key Euro­pean en­try point for Chi­nese prod­ucts such as cloth­ing, man­u­fac­tur­ing ma­chiner­ies, house­hold ap­pli­ances, ve­hi­cle parts and in­dus­trial yarn, as well as au­to­mo­biles from Ja­pan and South Korea, COSCO ap­plied and has been short­listed as a po­ten­tial buyer to ac­quire a ma­jor­ity stake in Pi­raeus Port Author­ity SA this month.

Fur­ther co­op­er­a­tion in in­vest­ment and mar­itime trans­porta­tion is also on the dis­cus­sion agenda be­tween vis­it­ing Chi­nese Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang and his coun­ter­part Greek Prime Min­is­ter An­to­nis Sa­ma­ras.

Ma Ze­hua, chair­man of China Ocean Ship­ping (Group) Co (COSCO), the coun­try’s largest ship­ping op­er­a­tor, said that with a part of EU’s eco­nomic cen­ter mov­ing grad­u­ally to south­ern Europe and the Mediter­ranean re­gion, Pi­raeus Port, as Greece’s largest trans­ship­ment port, has big po­ten­tial to at­tract in­ter­na­tional ship­ping com­pa­nies to set their re­gional tran­sit cen­ters and ser­vice branches.

Pi­raeus Port is an im­por­tant tran­sit port to con­nect var­i­ous ports in Western Europe, East­ern Europe, the Balkans, Black Sea, Mediter­ranean and Africa, and also one of the largest container ports in Europe.

In­vest­ing in this port will not only help COSCO carry out China’s first container port busi­ness in an over­seas mar­ket, but also reach the com­pany’s goal of build­ing Pi­raeus Port into a big­ger port of call for the China-Europe ship­ping route, Ma said.

Port of call is an intermediate stop for a ves­sel on its sail­ing itin­er­ary, which may in­clude up to half a dozen ports. Cargo ships can take on fuel and sup­plies at these ports, as well as load or un­load cargo goods.

The Chi­nese com­pany spent an ex­tra 230 mil­lion eu­ros in 2013 to en­hance the port’s cargo han­dling ca­pac­ity over the next seven years, in­clud­ing build­ing a new pier and al­most tripling the vol­ume of cargo that the port can han­dle.

“Run­ning such a big port in Greece can fur­ther en­sure COSCO ships’ sail­ing sched­ules, re­duce the cost in par­tic­u­lar the container-ship­ping costs and ex­pand busi­ness net­works of COSCO’s port busi­ness in south­ern Europe, as well as pro­mot­ing trade be­tween China and Euro­pean na­tions in the Mediter­ranean, the Balkans and the Black Sea re­gions,” said Ma.

Chen Ying­ming, ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent of Shang­haibased China Port and Har­bors As­so­ci­a­tion, said as the Greek govern­ment is seek­ing ef­fec­tive so­lu­tions to cre­ate more jobs and new mar­ket growth points through pri­va­ti­za­tion of selected State-owned as­sets, it def­i­nitely hopes that Pi­raeus Port could be­come a gate­way for China’s trade and in­vest­ment to Europe.

“De­vel­op­ing port busi­ness in Greece means huge com­pany and govern­ment in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture and re­lated ser­vice projects,” Chen said.

With a ca­pac­ity of han­dling more than 3.16 mil­lion 20-foot equiv­a­lent container units per year, Pi­raeus port has be­come a part­ner for the strate­gic goals of multi­na­tional gi­ants such as US elec­tron­ics com­pany Hewlett-Packard and Chi­nese net­work­ing ma­jor Huawei Tech­nolo­gies Co for the mar­itime dis­tri­bu­tion of their prod­ucts to Europe, North­ern African coun­tries and the Mid­dle East. Con­tact the writer at xingzhi­gang@chi­nadaily.com.cn

LI TAO / XIN­HUA

Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang and Greek Prime Min­is­ter An­to­nis Sa­ma­ras in­spect a guard of honor dur­ing a wel­come cer­e­mony at Athens In­ter­na­tional Air­port on Thurs­day. Li is sched­uled to in­spect the Pi­raeus Port on Fri­day.

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