By Lefteris Yallouros – Athens
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras inaugurated a new loading and unloading pier this week at the port of Piraeus enabling it to handle a total of 4.7 million TEUs per year. The event was also attended by Cosco president, Wei Jiafu who is on an official visit to Greece. A new EUR 224 million investment is being negotiated between the Greek government and Cosco, regarding the further expansion of Pier III of the Port of Piraeus container handling terminal.
Piraeus Container Terminal, the COSCO subsidiary that runs the port facilities, launched operations in Greece at Pier II at Piraeus port in 2009, with a plan to turn it into the leading container terminal in the Mediterranean Sea region, and ever since has built Pier III and posted remarkable results.
Pier III will be fully operational after the installation of another two super-post Panamax type cranes as of July 1, much sooner than 2016 as initially anticipated under a contract for the concession of the management of part of Piraeus port facilities to PCT.
Captain Wei Jiafu is thought to have also discussed the privatization of the port with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras during his visit to Greece. Cosco has reportedly expressed a keen interest in furthering investment in Piraeus.
Captain Wei Jiafu, Cosco’s president and chief executive officer expressed his company’s desire to acquire the majority stake in the Piraeus Port Authority. With no other apparent suitors, this also appears to be the intention of state privatization fund TAIPED, whose chief, Stelios Stavridis, recently stated that the process for the sale of the controlling stake in the listed company will be accelerated.
Cpt Wei stated: “the Greeks built this pier. I believe Cosco is a member of the course of Greece to development and stability. We had the support of the Greek government, the unions and all the Greeks for this project. The first year we had 116,000 containers, in 2012 2.1 million and in 2013 we will reach 2.5 million, with more than 1,000 workers employed at our facilities. Cosco will increase the product flow to Greece, which will be forwarded to Europe by rail, for which we already have expressed our interest in our meeting with the Greek Prime Minister. We wish to make another investment in Pier 3, in the western part of it, which will increase the containers at more than 5 million and will make Piraeus the first port of the Mediterranean.”
Antonis Samaras said “we are at the port of Piraeus to launch the east side of Pier 3, which was a contractual obligation of Cosco. It is a 340 million euros investment of Cosco. We are in the midst of a new negotiation, which will bring projects of 224 million euros for the construction of the western part of Pier 3, will create 500 permanent jobs and 200 additional positions for the three years that will be needed for its construction. If the agreement is finalized, the total investment of Cosco will reach 580 million euros, will raise transport to 7 million containers and will create 3,000 jobs. The Chinese are interested in other investments in Greece. New roads are being opened. We are committed to further developing and strengthening the relations between the two countries with greater involvement of China in the development of Greece.”
Government Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos presented COSCO Group Chairman Captain Wei Jiafu with the Grand Cross of the Order of the Phoenix at a special ceremony on Thursday.