‘Explosive’ Platiyiali

The seizure of the Baltic Sky cargo ship has brought Platiyiali, a tiny port near the western town of Astakos, to the headlines for the third time in 20 years. The history of the port is a classic example of the manner in which PASOK governments have designed, constructed and utilized the so-called big projects. Construction works for the port commenced at the beginning of the 1980s with a huge budget but a vague end-purpose. By the time the project was nearly over, we were told that Platiyiali was to become a scrapyard for junking ships. What is more, construction works were stepped up to benefit from the shipping crisis at the time. A Paleolithic settlement unearthed during the digging was quickly buried under tons of cement. Residents of Astakos and nearby islands (Ithaca, Cephalonia, and Lefkada) protested at the decision to build a highly polluting industry in the area. But the junking site never came into operation, less because of public disapproval and more because the shipping crisis proved to be short-lived and the cost of breaking up ships in Greece too high. The port was abandoned; the cranes and other machinery were left to rust for years. Then, at some point, PASOK officials thought of an alternative use. They began secret, dubious negotiations with a Dutch company to turn Platiyiali into an area for the reception and destruction of nuclear waste from other European countries. This sparked even greater public opprobrium. An attempt was finally made to turn Platiyiali into a hub for the Ionian Sea trade. Vasso Papandreou made a triumphant 117.3-million-euro investment. However, nothing has changed since and the dock apparently is to be used for other purposes, like accommodating obsolete ships. Needless to say, no one has been blamed for these failures. Some have even profited from the port, turning it into a symbol of corruption.

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