ECONOMY

Container terminal tender issued

Greece has launched an international tender for the country’s two main container terminals, Piraeus and Thessaloniki, Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis said yesterday. «The aim is to hand over (certain) operations of these port organizations to private companies and turn our country into a focal point of global (maritime) transport,» Voulgarakis told reporters. «The tender is in process and we will have a result in 50 days,» he said. The precise details of the tender were not released, but a number of top operators, including China’s Cosco and Denmark’s Maersk, have expressed interest. The Greek dockers’ union (OMYLE) opposes the initiative on the grounds that it will bring widespread job cuts and earlier this month began a protest including work-to-rule practices, two 24-hour strikes and a 48-hour strike ending today. The dockers have pledged to continue their protest indefinitely as traders in Piraeus warned that the strike was already beginning to hurt the market. «We are prepared to keep this up until Easter if necessary,» one union leader told state television. The government says it is imperative to increase the competitiveness of Greek harbors at a time when Mediterranean neighbors Egypt, Syria and Turkey had already taken similar steps to attract operators as container ship traffic continues to grow globally. The partial concession of the Piraeus container terminal and an accompanying investment of up to -500 million is expected to triple its capacity to 4.8 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEU). A similar plan for Thessaloniki, involving the full concession of its container terminal, has an investment target of -250 million and will likewise triple the port’s capacity to 1.6 TEU, the government says. Both Piraeus and Thessaloniki are currently turning a profit but the funds are insufficient for the «massive» investment needed to fully confront their regional competitors, the government says. The minister said that no jobs or worker rights would be forfeited but that an unspecified number of employees would take voluntary retirement and stock options. Suit Separately, the Prefecture of Piraeus said it planned to file a suit against anyone responsible for misleading the shareholders of the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) on the port concession issue. «The investment program that OLP submitted in April 2007 in order for shareholders to know what the company planned for this year contained no mention of a concession of the only operating container terminal to a private firm. There was only reference to expansion projects,» said the prefecture in a statement. Dockers are also planning to file a similar suit. (AFP, Kathimerini)