Seven companies have already got hold of the applications for the tender for the concession of container stations (SEMPO) at the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki. Zim (Israeli interests), Danish group AP Moeller, Damco Energy of the Kopelouzos group, China’s Cosco group, Dubai Ports World, Aster Maritime and the Maersk Group from Denmark have shown their initial interest in this way, while more interest is expected in the next few days from the Italian-Swiss group of MSC and from Hutchinson. Two Greek banking groups will probably participate too, while Eurobank has also received an application form. The Merchant Marine Ministry does not rule out the emergence of more suitors – particularly «business ventures» – up to March 19, which is when the second phase of the tender begins. Port workers yesterday staged a 24-hour strike and today the administration of the Piraeus Port Authority has invited unionists to enter into negotiations to find a solution and to stop their industrial action. Truck drivers have already suspended their strike and have begun to forward the thousands of containers that had amassed at the SEMPO at Ikonio, near Piraeus. Regarding the Thessaloniki SEMPO, interest has reportedly been expressed by five companies, including Cosco, Dubai Ports World, Hutchinson Whampoa of Hong Kong and the Maersk Group through its Philippines-based subsidiary International Containers Terminal Services Inc. More companies are expected to express their interest in the next few days. Next week the ministry will table in Parliament the bill that safeguards the employment status of Piraeus and Thessaloniki port authority workers.