Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is expected to sign a three-year agreement with China attracting investment to the country’s port and shipping infrastructure, during his visit at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, inform Greek media.
The Forum will be held in Beijing on May 14-15, with the attendance of 28 state leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Presidents of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Czech Republic, Prime Ministers of Italy, Spain, Serbia, Hungary, Poland, Mongolia, Pakistan and others. The Forum is intended to explore the ways to interconnected development of infrastructures and policies of the countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative of the Chinese President Xi Jinping.
According to Seatrade Maritime, Athens and Beijing have been discussing their long-term economic cooperation agreement for about three years, and the negotiations currently are at an advanced stage. Over 10 business plans have already been evaluated and put forward for ratification. The projects involve billions of Chinese investments in a wide range of sectors, including ports and shipbuilding, telecommunications, energy, real estate, insurance and tourism.
China’s Cosco, which in August 2016 finalized the deal on acquiring a 67% stake in the Piraeus Port Authority, also expresses intense interest in entering Greece’s shipbuilding and shiprepair sector, wishing to set up a major shiprepair base in the country. Its focus has previously been on the state’s largest facility, Hellenic Shipyards, whereas recently the company has been eyeing the second largest shipyard, Elefsis, as well as Neorion Holdings, the owner of Shipbuilding & Industrial Enterprises Syros, the country’s third yard on the Cyclades island of Syros.
The Piraeus Port Authority has announced an investment plan to upgrade port facilities, primarily the cruise terminal and shiprepair capacities, including placement of an 80,000-ton floating dock, however the latter depends on developments at the two major shipyards. One Cosco source said investment over the next five years will “exceed EUR 600 mln”.
Piraeus port has an ambitious aim to become the biggest container port in the Mediterranean within two years, moving up from the third at present, behind Spain’s Algeciras (4.76 mln TEU) and Valencia (4.72 mln TEU). With Cosco management, Piraeus’ throughput surged more than fivefold in seven years, up to 3.67 mln TEU per annum. According to Anastasios Vamvakidis, commercial manager of the Piraeus Container Terminal, which is controlled by Cosco, the target for 2018 is to reach the second place. He also mentioned a plan to establish a logistics center to further boost Piraeus’ attractiveness as the southeast gateway into the EU, complete with a direct rail line linking Piraeus to the rest of Europe.