Cosco harboring big plans for Piraeus ahead of OLP stake sale

By Ilias Bellos

Cosco sources have told Kathimerini that the Chinese company is ready to submit its bid for the acquisition of the majority stake in privatization-bound Piraeus Port Authority (OLP), with the proposal also including investment and development proposals aimed at turning Piraeus into the biggest port in the Mediterranean.

The same sources add that the company’s decision has been communicated to everyone involved and will be implemented on the condition that it is accepted by Greek and European authorities.

Officials from Cosco’s local subsidiary, Piraeus Container Terminal (PCT), add that ongoing developments in the global containers market – such as the formation of the “P3 alliance” consortium comprising Maersk Line, Mediterranean Shipping Company and CMA CGM – are creating optimism that, with the right moves, Piraeus could attract a much higher volume of containers.

Even beyond the container sector, the same sources see huge prospects in the Greek port’s car terminal, which given the increase in vehicle imports from Asia to Europe and Piraeus’s strategic position close to the Suez Canal could turn it into a main European gate of entry for such shipments.

However, Cosco is not the only suitor for the majority stake in OLP and the port’s development; a consortium from New Zealand, comprising Morrison & Co and ICM Limited, has also expressed an interest. Morrison & Co is responsible for the management and administration of listed investment group Infratil Limited. A third suitor cannot be ruled out, although Cosco’s presence in Piraeus clearly gives it a comparative advantage.

According to the draft text of the tender proclamation, submitted to Parliament last week, the state is selling 67 percent of OLP, which will be the Piraeus port’s contractor until 2052 via a concession contract with the state. This means that the privatization concerns the transfer of this concession, while the port infrastructure will continue to belong to the state and is not for sale, as government sources have explained.