Cosco has got around the problem created for its freight forwarding network by Greek railway workers’ ongoing strike action by sending its containers by sea from Piraeus to Koper in Slovenia, from where they are loaded onto trains for the next part of their journey.
Given that the freight rates for the small ships required are particularly low, the Chinese company can bypass the Greek overland route without any particular consequences as regards competitiveness.
This alternative route is part of plans by Cosco’s local subsidiary, Piraeus Container Terminal, to tackle threats to its smooth operation. This “smooth continuity operation” plan was activated in response to as Trainose staff announcing they would continue their industrial action at least until midnight on Tuesday. Another alternative in the plan provides for the road transport of containers from Piraeus to Greece’s northern border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, where they would be loaded onto trains to continue on their way to Central Europe.
The issue is very significant in the context of the demands of the Greek railway workers, who are against both the privatization of railway operator Trainose and the upcoming transfer of Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE), Trainose’s parent company, to the portfolio of the new privatization fund to be created in September. Trainose workers will decide on Tuesday on any further action.
Trenitalia, the sole bidder to have submitted a binding offer to state sell-off fund TAIPED for 100 percent of Trainose’s shares, appears to be particularly annoyed by the reported approval of pay rises to train drivers. The Italians are annoyed not only because this had not been factored into their offer, but also because they realize they may come up against further decisions made by others.
For Trainose, the forwarding of cargo from Piraeus accounts virtually for its entire non-passenger activity, and the existence of an alternative route such as that to Koper – and very soon of rival railway companies – make the Greek railway operator less attractive and will reduce its growth prospects.