Major operator mulling withdrawal from Piraeus

Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), a major container transportation firm, is seriously considering crossing Piraeus off the list of ports in which it operates, hit by the continuing go-slow action by dockers at the Keratsini container terminal, sources said. The company is said to have verbally informed the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) of its concern, although it has not made any final decision. Shipping circles take the view that if MSC ultimately withdraws from Piraeus, OLP will suffer a significant injury, both to its credibility and revenues. MSC accounts for about one-third of OLP’s turnover and 50 percent at the container terminal in Keratsini. The container terminal is operating at a fraction of normal capacity as a result of the industrial action by the dockers, which is now in its third week in Piraeus and Thessaloniki. The stevedores are reacting to the government’s plans to privatize some port services on a concession basis which would include private investment to upgrade the port facilities. Traders, who have been particularly hard hit by the go-slow, are anxiously awaiting a scheduled meeting today between Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis and dockers’ representatives. The heads of a number of chambers of commerce postponed until Thursday yesterday’s scheduled meeting on the issue of the 15 percent surcharge levied on containers blocked at the port as a result of the go-slow. Also yesterday, dockers decided to continue their action until tomorrow. «If the government agrees to lift its decision, then we shall return to work. Otherwise, we shall escalate our mobilization,» said a labor union official. Separately, the International Maritime Union has asked to see Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis and opposition leader Giorgos Papandreou.

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