BUSINESS

Piraeus port becomes Med’s third biggest in container traffic

By Ilias Bellos

Thanks to greater-than-expected annual growth, the port of Piraeus last year became the Mediterranean’s third largest in terms of container traffic.

Kathimerini understands that Piraeus Container Terminal (SEP), the local subsidiary of China’s Cosco, handled 2.52 million twenty-foot equivalent units (teu) at terminals II and III in Piraeus in 2013, against an estimate of 2.4 million teu. When that is added to the 644,000 containers handled at Terminal I, operated by Piraeus Port Authority (OLP), Greece’s biggest port handled a total of over 3.16 million containers last year.

SEP posted a 20 percent increase last year, on top of the massive 77 percent rise recorded in 2012, when it handled 2.1 million teu, and, along with the 626,000 containers handled at Terminal I, helped Piraeus become the fastest-growing port in the world. The dock operated by OLP only registered a 3 percent increase within the last year.

Once Cosco’s new investment at the western section of Terminal III is completed, the capacity of the whole of Piraeus port will grow from a current annual 4.2 million teu to 6.2 million teu, with experts forecasting that Piraeus could become the biggest commercial port in the Mediterranean by 2016. In 2012 Piraeus ranked fourth, with Valencia in first place, handling 4.46 million teu. Another Spanish port, Algeciras, was in second and Turkey’s Ambarli in third.

The proximity of Piraeus to Suez, which is the point of entry for Asian products to Europe, and its rail interconnection with the national and continental networks, saves some six days for products on their way to Central Europe, making it the gateway of choice for Asian trade. And bear in mind that this is taking place during a period when traffic at Northern Europe’s three biggest ports – Rotterdam, Hamburg and Antwerp – is on the wane.

A second comparative advantage for Piraeus is its car terminal, which is already showing major growth. The Mediterranean is a key European entry point for vehicles from Japan, South Korea and India, so Piraeus is a top-choice transit center for cars, too, while European Union car imports from Japan through the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea are on the rise.

In the years after 2010 Piraeus has managed to record positive growth rates in car handling despite the raging financial crisis, during a period when rival terminals in Italy have either ceased operating (Gioia Tauro) or are recording a declining course (Livorno). In 2012 the Car Terminal of Piraeus Port Authority posted an increase of 9.8 percent in traffic from 2011, and a rise of 66 percent from 2009.

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