ECONOMY

Dritsas tactics are threatening the privatization of Piraeus Port

dritsas-tactics-are-threatening-the-privatization-of-piraeus-port

Led by Merchant Marine Minister Theodoros Dritsas, the SYRIZA wing that has expressed its opposition to privatizations and particularly that of Piraeus Port Authority (OLP), is making a last-ditch effort to delay the submission of binding bids for the controlling stake in the organization, set for December 15.

The objective of such delay tactics is to test the patience of the interested investors, who over the last 18 months have been spending time and money on an apparently endless procedure.

The latest demand made by Dritsas is for the postponement of the deadline to March, ostensibly so that the privatization project can be better prepared. He also calls for the exemption of the Perama-Salamina ferry service from the concession contract, which, if implemented, would not only reduce the value of the sell-off project but also cause problems to all port authorities that operate ferry services, as local authorities will likely try to claim the management of their respective ferry services, such as Rio-Antirrio in western Greece, Keramoti-Thasos in northern Greece etc.

Observers have also noted the belated interest by Infrastructures Minister Christos Spirtzis for an under-water tunnel linking Perama and the island of Salamina, something that would certainly devalue the ferry service and OLP in general.

“Even if you have such an intention, you do not announce it a month before the deadline” for binding offers, according to an official close to the privatization project.

Dritsas also has certain unexpected demands, such as the exemption from the contract of the OLP buildings that belong to its private property, i.e. buildings that the port company has erected and belong by 26 percent to its private shareholders.

What the minister should have done is to proceed with the creation of the Independent Authority for Ports that will take over the administrative and regulatory services. As long as this is delayed, uncertainty persists, making potential investors more nervous as they see crucial issues remaining unresolved for months. The port watchdog is an issue that was first raised in 2013, when the process for the sale of the OLP stake was launched.