Thessaloniki could soon evolve into the southeastern Mediterranean’s second entry point, after Piraeus, for Asia-Europe trade should two major infrastructure projects planned bear fruit.
The first project concerns the privatization of Thessaloniki Port Authority (OLTH) and the investments that will bring, while the second is the creation of a freight center in Thessaloniki, similar to what is being planned for Thriasio in western Attica.
The freight center is planned for construction on a 672,000-square meter plot owned by railway property utilization company GAIAOSE at the former Gonou military camp at Diavata, near Thessaloniki’s commercial port. The announcement on the plot’s utilization is expected in the next few days.
The project’s development model will be similar to that adopted in Attica, where the main pillars are the port of Piraeus and the Thriasio freight center. The tenders for Piraeus Port and Thriasio are expected to be completed in the first half of 2016, with those for OLTH and the Thessaloniki freight center set to follow, GAIAOSE managing director Athanasios Schizas told Kathimerini.
He added that the Gonou military camp plot is being cleared of all military material. This is a process that is proving particularly costly in terms of both time and money owing to the thousands of underground findings that include ammunition dating as far back as World War I and some of which are located as deep as 1.5 meters.
The concession of a freight center at Gonou via international tender forms part of the planning of the Transport and Infrastructure Ministry, GAIAOSE and state privatization fund TAIPED, and the tenders alone for OLTH and the freight center are seen bolstering the value of both state assets.
Schizas explained that the studies commissioned by GAIAOSE show that for Thessaloniki to be able to make the most of its potential as a combined transport hub, the city’s port will require a major logistics center. The plot at Gonou has a rail link with the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) freight station of Thessaloniki and with OLTH, but this link has been abandoned and will need to be upgraded. “The location of the property, its huge surface area and its rail link make the plot particularly attractive for developing a freight center for combined transport of significance beyond the local range,” GAIAOSE’s managing director said.
He added that “GAIAOSE’s strategic planning provides for seeking cooperation with OLTH for its preferred bidder to either cooperate with another investor that undertakes the freight center, or to take over the center’s funding, construction and operation alone.”