ECONOMY

Piraeus can evolve into the top container port in the Med

After a Piraeus Port Authority general meeting green-lighted for the agreement with Chinese company Cosco regarding the latter’s new 230-million-euro investment in Piraeus, the way is now open for Beijing to move ahead with its export plans in Europe and for Piraeus to become the biggest Mediterranean port in terms of cargo traffic.

The deal with Cosco was signed last week and after its ratification by Parliament in the next few days Piraeus will be able to start expansion works on its western side that are seen raising the total capacity of its container terminal to 7.2 million teu per annum by 2021. That will allow Greece’s main port to handle the volumes required for it to become the main entry point for Asian trade toward Europe.

The other parts of this international axis of commerce are in the Balkans and further north, where projects worth over 3.5 billion euros are currently being implemented in countries such as Serbia, Montenegro and Hungary to improve rail and road infrastructure. They form part of the Chinese plan titled “New Silk Roads,” one of which, the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road,” will pass through Piraeus.

In this context China’s Premier Li Keqiang will participate in the summit meeting of Southeastern European leaders in Belgrade in mid-December, thereby launching Beijing’s campaign in the region. There is a possibility Greek Prime Minster Antonis Samaras and Merchant Marine Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis will also take part.

Varvitsiotis told Kathimerini, “The investment of 230 million euros will be the biggest in the country since the start of the crisis and will render Piraeus the top port in the Mediterranean and in Europe.”

The government has received a series of studies that reveal the long-term benefits for the economy should the “new European gate for Asian imports” as both Athens and Beijing are calling the port of Piraeus, develop further.

A National Bank of Greece study has shown that an increase to 4.7 million teu in 2015 from 3 million in 2012 could bring additional revenues of 900 million euros to Greece each year, leading to an added value of 0.4 percent of GDP and some 9,000 new jobs.