ECONOMY

Cosco eyes Piraeus expansion

Kathimerini met up with Captain Fu Cheng Qiu at Pier II during the installation of one of three Super Post Panamax gantry cranes that were delivered earlier this month.

The general manager of Cosco Piraeus Terminal Co Ltd was supervising the progress of the installation so that it went along without a hitch, while also keeping an eye on a cargo ship that was being loaded, making sure that everything was on schedule. ?We are all part of chain and this is why the schedule needs to go like clockwork,? he said. ?We have to offer good services to our customers so that they continue to choose us.?

Construction for the remodeling of the pier and elevating and strengthening its abutment continue further along. This project, to be completed in a few months? time, is expected to increase productivity by 30 percent as it will allow the installation of gantry cranes for high-rack storage and better utilization of the available space.

Despite the recession, the commercial port of Piraeus is well on its way to setting a record in container transportation. Captain Fu estimates that so far this year, some 1.5 million TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units) have been shifted through Pier II, breaking the record for 2007. This impressive increase in activity confirms the Chinese shipping giant?s strategy to invest in increasing Piraeus port?s capacity and Fu is already talking about tripling output. To this end, he has put the construction of a section of Pier II to serve larger ships at the top of his list of priorities, and expects this to give the Piraeus Container Terminal a significant comparative advantage. Completion of Pier III, which is part of the concession signed with Cosco by the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP), will increase capacity by 3.7 million TEU on an annual basis, according to Fu.

The main question, however, is whether Cosco is also interested in Pier I, which is currently managed by OLP.

?If your government forms a clear policy to open up the process, then I can say on behalf of Cosco that we are interested,? said Fu. ?The situation has changed a lot since Cosco?s arrival in Greece to the present and I am pleased about this. The government understands the importance of investment and the stance of society has also changed toward is. After all, we employ more that 700 workers. At first there were concerns that we would bring labor from China; this is not true, as we have only seven Chinese on the work force. We had to accept your culture and now, as a Chinese, I am trying to explain ours. Our cultures may be different, but both countries have a long history. But, in order to achieve mutual acceptance, we have to open our hearts to one another,? said Fu.

Regarding Greece?s efforts to overcome the current economic crisis, Fu said that ?if you continue to aim for stability and persist with privatizations, I trust that the country will emerge from the crisis faster.?

According to Captain Fu, every country must exist within the framework of its capabilities, and for Greece to increase its capabilities it needs to develop its private sector. ?This is not a very big country, and it is easy to change the direction of a small ship. It would be very easy for Greece, if the policy is right.?