“The Chinese people are getting better acquainted with Greece, which is now an attraction for thousands of Chinese tourists and has become fashionable in China following the news coverage on Cosco’s strategic cooperation with Piraeus Port Authority,” stated Xu Lirong, the head of China Cosco Shipping Corporation Limited, at the opening of the new cruise terminal at Aghios Nikolaos in Piraeus on Monday.
“Cruise passenger traffic in the port currently numbers about 1 million per year. Our short-term target is to raise that figure to 1.5 million while our long-term target is 3 million,” he added, before saying Cosco would also accelerate investment for the further expansion of the cruise port.
The Cosco chief, who was in Greece for 24 hours, spoke about upgrading the existing infrastructure and constructing new buildings and facilities, along with drastically improving services. Speaking to Kathimerini, he reiterated that the immediate, three-pronged priority of the Cosco investment is cruise tourism, ship repair and the container terminals, along with the development of other activities such as the vehicle transit center and the passenger port.
Cosco has committed to first completing the initial stage of the cruise port’s expansion, as agreed to in the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) privatization contract. Once it has completed that, it will move its focus to the second stage, to which it has made a verbal commitment, creating a total of six docking slots able to host the world’s biggest cruise liners. The first stage concerns investment of 136 million euros, with the costs of the second stage taking the sum to about 200 million.
The project inaugurated on Monday by the Cosco chairman, at a budget of 7.5 billion euros not including value-added tax, was first auctioned to a contractor back in 2010, with a contractual delivery period of seven months. However, for a number of reasons, the project ground to a halt and in 2014 OLP decided to terminate the concession contract as, according to sources, no more than 35 percent of the work had been completed.
After a long court battle with the previous contractor, and facing the risk of missing out on vital European Union funding because of the delays, OLP reauctioned the cruise terminal construction project. The project was eventually conceded to TEKAL SA, the construction firm which built the docks of Piraeus Container Terminal (PCT), the local subsidiary of Cosco. The project’s construction started on May 17 this year and was finally delivered on September 10.