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Cosco Pacific agrees to increase Piraeus capacity to 6.2 million TEU

22 September 2014Shipping News

COSCO Pacific has signed a Memorandum of Understanding to invest an additional EUR230 million (US$303 million) in the Greek port of Piraeus, which would boost the port's total annual capacity to 6.2 million TEU by building a fourth pier.

The terminal operator took over management of the lion's share of the port's container terminal in 2009 under a 30 to 35-year concession agreement.

The memorandum also provides for the suspension of annual installments from Cosco to the Piraeus Port Authority that were due under the initial concession agreement, a report by Lloyd's Loading List said.

It said that in recent days it has become apparent that the administration of Antonis Samaras is ready to sell a majority stake in the PPA. The state holds a 74 per cent stake in the Piraeus Port Authority. 

But PPA chief executive George Anomeritis was opposed to the privatisation of the port, according to sources in the port sector, who claim he favours a concession arrangement. He is an advocate of developing Greece's port system "through mergers and concessions."

Now Mr Anomeritis has given his full support to the new agreement with Cosco Pacific, saying it would boost public assets, raise the port's competitiveness and help establish the port as "one of the most important in Europe".

A senior Cosco Pacific executive is reported to have told Lloyd's List that the company is interested in bidding for a stake in the port were the government to put it up for sale. 

Greece's Minister of Shipping Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, who is believed to have been given a new mandate to fast track the sale, confirmed the government wished to "deepen our strategic relationship with China".

Greek officials are reportedly hopeful the expanded Cosco Pacific operation may lead to further investments, including the development of a major logistics centre inland and even a manufacturing park to bolster its role as a major European distribution gateway for China.