Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis said yesterday that Greece is acquiring important strategic importance through the privatization of the country’s largest port, in Piraeus. Earlier this week, the port authority said that China’s Cosco Pacific Ltd was the top bidder in the concession tender to operate and upgrade the Piraeus container terminal. Cosco, the world’s fifth-largest container port operator, offered 4.3 billion euros (of which 79 percent is guaranteed) for the contract to operate the port’s commercial docks for up to 35 years, and will invest a further 620 million euros (75 percent guaranteed) to upgrade them. «At this moment… Greece is acquiring an important geostrategic role as a hub for the Balkans and Europe,» said the minister. Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) officials have claimed Cosco’s bid is the highest ever submitted for a container terminal worldwide, and equals about seven times the company’s current capitalization, five times its total profits and at least 15 times the container terminal’s profits. Cosco outbid Hutchison Port Holdings which, in partnership with Greek pharmaceutical group Alapis, offered 4.06 billion euros and a further 354 million euros in investment.