Pi­raeus Port sale marks ‘his­toric day’ in Sino-Greek ties

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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