Gov’t targets regional hub in port tender

The government yesterday unveiled a tender inviting companies to upgrade and run commercial port facilities (OLTH) in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, in a bid to boost the country’s role as a regional hub. Greece, with two of the largest ports in the Mediterranean, has watched its role as an entry point for goods into Europe slip as outdated port facilities and strong unions have led cargo freighters to turn to other ports, some of them in Italy. Greece’s conservative government has also said it plans to sell stakes in facilities at the country’s major port (OLP) of Piraeus, to boost investment and pay down public debt. The winning bidder will have the rights to operate, develop and expand the port’s commercial dock for up to 35 years, OLTH said in a statement. The Merchant Marine Ministry said a similar tender for OLP is soon to be published with the investment in each port seen at about -650 million ($952.4 million). Greek port workers, who have called a 24-hour strike on January 30, have refused to work overtime and have gone on strike to oppose plans they say will affect their employment and lead to privatization of the ports. China’s COSCO Pacific has shown interest in investing in Greek ports while analysts say companies such as Dubai Ports World, Hutchison Maersk and Evergreen may also show interest. OLP and OLTH have market values of -632 and -282 million respectively, according to Reuters estimates. The state has a more than 70 percent stake in each. (Reuters)