ECONOMY

Cosco’s Greek unit adds multinational rail-freight client

The Greek unit of China-based Cosco Pacific Ltd. said it has expanded cargo-train shipping to include a fourth multinational company, bolstering Piraeus port’s goal of becoming a main trade gateway into Europe.

Piraeus Container Terminal SA at mid-year added a non-Chinese Asian electronics manufacturer to its list of clients that use rail-freight services from Greece’s biggest port to move goods to central Europe, said Tassos Vamvakidis, PCT’s commercial manager. The services began earlier this year.

The latest addition to the group, which already included China’s Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. and California-based Hewlett-Packard Co., wishes to remain anonymous because of concerns about the possible theft of its goods, according to Vamvakidis.

“We are talking about high-value products,” he said in an interview Thursday in his office at PCT’s headquarters 30 minutes south of central Athens.

PCT is counting on demand for sea and rail transport near the crossroads of three continents to expand operations at Piraeus, which is the first major European container port for ships entering the Mediterranean Sea through the Suez Canal. The port of Athens since antiquity, Piraeus has grown since Cosco’s entry into the market in 2009 to become the 10th-biggest container port in the European Union, according to EU statistics agency Eurostat.

“Cargo volumes in the Mediterranean are increasing, so you have to be there,” Vamvakidis said. “The market is not waiting.”

The goods of the four multinational companies using PCT’s rail-freight services go to Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, he said.

The service is offered on so-called block trains, which load freight at one point and carry it to a final destination without splitting up or storing goods during the journey. For the four companies as a whole, PCT has arranged three to four block trains a week, according to Vamvakidis.

Earlier this month, PCT also began receiving return cargo by rail from central Europe for distribution in Greece by truck or for onward transport to destinations abroad by ship, “a service we’re trying to expand,” he said.

In that context, Piraeus also has the chance to become a distribution center for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Vamvakidis said. [Bloomberg]