The government is speeding up efforts to strike a deal for a joint investment with China to construct a new port station at Tymbaki, southern Crete, as sizable as Greece’s biggest port, Piraeus, Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis said yesterday. The project will allow for the transit of 1 million containers to the Black Sea, the Aegean, the Balkans, the Adriatic and Western Europe. He added that a bilateral government contract could be signed to accelerate the investment, bypassing many bureaucratic and time-consuming procedures. The development of ports and their transformation into competitive entities is a key point in the ministry’s policy, which is why «specific policies have been realized with tangible results» by the ministry and its Port Policy General Secretariat, Kefaloyiannis said yesterday. Ministry data show that across all ports there are currently infrastructure and modernization projects under way worth a total of 335 million euros. Kefaloyiannis suggested that the port policy’s main objective is attracting private capital for investments in ports so as to improve their services. To assist such public-private partnerships, the ministry has set up an Investment Reception Office. Highlighting Greek ports as transit centers is another objective, according to Kefaloyiannis, aimed at increasing containers passing through. «We seek to create transit centers as well as free transit, industrial zones and free complexes in the country’s customs regions to support and develop our trade and industry, in cooperation with the Economy and Finance Ministry,» he said. The policy also includes the promotion of combined transport and the infrastructure associated with it such as rail, road and air links for ports. «We want to succeed and are working toward this direction with the development of short-distance shipping through better connectivity of major Greek ports with ports in the eastern Mediterranean, the Adriatic and the Black Sea by using the Marco Polo program,» the minister noted. Another priority is securing environmental protection by evaluating and approving the Ship Waste Reception Plans, creating infrastructure where required and increasing environmental checks. «In the context of a rational, responsible and fact-based port policy we promote local, regional and national development,» Kefaloyiannis said. «These aims include promoting the competitiveness of maritime transport and providing modern high-level services with an emphasis on safety, fast service and low costs,» he added. Finally, the minister referred to the first measures proposed to upgrade the ship repair zone of Perama, including the expansion of the seafront by about 80 meters to allow for the development of companies operating in the zone in the 93,000 square meters to be created. Another proposal concerns the possibility of conceding space in the repair zone for 20 years to shipyard enterprises that will realize new investments.