Repeated strikes and problems in services such as piloting have inflicted irreversible damage on the international credibility of the port of Piraeus and prospects of employment growth in the sector, Greek port industry officials tell Kathimerini.
The damage stems from the port’s loss of competitiveness compared to its Mediterranean counterparts, as well as the weakening bargaining power of Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) vis-a-vis major international container and car shipping companies and cruise operators.
According to market calculations, Piraeus has already lost 15 working days in container handling this year due to problems with pilot boats, tugboats and industrial action, 30 days for cruise tourism and two months of its railway link with Europe owing to the refugees’ blockade at Idomeni. In total, it is estimated that it has missed out on 10 percent of its potential output this year.
The issue has come to the fore for two reasons. The first is that from last Friday till Sunday more than 15 mother ships – large container ships – lost crucial days due to a strike by tugboat crews. New delays are expected as the strike by the Panhellenic Seamen’s Federation is likely to continue until at least Thursday night.
The second reason is that those delays and others preceding them – due to the constant inability of the pilot service to meet demand in Piraeus and the month-long strike by port workers last spring – have come at a point when the major shipping companies, having forged alliances, are negotiating with OLP the terms and conditions for including Piraeus in their circular itineraries. The same also applies to cruise companies.
Sources from OLP and shipping agents have told Kathimerini that the long delays the strikes and the poor means and staffing of the pilot service have considerably cost the foreign multinationals, which are Piraeus port’s main customers and demand precision down to the minute for their cargo loads.