Piraeus Port sale marks ‘historic day’ in Sino-Greek ties
The sale of the majority stake in Piraeus Port Authority to China’s state-owned COSCO Shipping marks a new era for Greece’s largest port and Sino-Greek relations, the chairman of Greece’s privatisation fund Stergios Pitsiorlas told Xinhua in a recent interview.
On April 8, Pitsiorlas signed the 368.5 mln euro deal on behalf of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) during a ceremony in the presence of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and China COSCO Shipping chairman Xu Lirong.
Under the agreement, China COSCO Shipping will initially acquire a 51% stake in PPA and the remaining 16% over the next five years as long as it will deliver the agreed investments in the port.
The company said it will invest EUR 350 mln over the next decade, and will pay an annual fee to the Greek state for running the port.
Piraeus port workers, however, say they are worried the deal would put their jobs at risk. Dockworkers marched in central Athens to protest the sale.
The agreement must be ratified by the Competition Commission and by the Greek parliament. Pitsiorlas hoped COSCO would formally take over PPA’s management by July.
The Port of Piraeus is a gateway to Asia, Eastern Europe and North Africa. It handled 16.8 mln passengers and 3.6 mln 20-foot containers in 2014.
“The entire negotiation was conducted during a very critical year for Greece. During this period Greece was negotiating the new bailout with its creditors, the EU and IMF, we almost reached the brink of default. So the discussion conducted said.
“The agreement marks the dawn of a new on in a the very PPA agreement was difficult climate,” he day for Piraeus and Sino-Greek relations and this is a very important development for Greece with positive prospects,” he stressed.
Both sides have a lot to win through collaboration at Piraeus. Greece, as the main gateway for Asian products into Europe and vice versa, will reap numerous benefits.
“It is a project spanning over four decades. I am very optimistic, because I believe Piraeus port will be a major push for Greece to move ahead towards a new phase of economic development,” Pitsiorlas said.
Through cooperation with China COSCO Shipping, Piraeus can become one of the largest ports in Europe, he added.
Since 2009, COSCO’s subsidiary Piraeus Container Terminal has been operating Piers II and III under a 35-year concession agreement. COSCO is investing EUR 230 mln to build a second container terminal at the port which it plans to turn into a logistics hub for Chinese exports to Europe.
The next steps of Greece’s privatisation programme involve developing train links to the port.
“I believe that Piraeus port in combination with the upgrade of the railways services opens the Silk Road to Europe,” Pitsiorlas said.
The Greek official said he expected that ten other major privatisation projects across Greece should be off the ground by 2017, including redeveloping the old Athens airport Hellenikon.