By Ye Qi, Wang Xinping, Han Bingchen, People’s Daily
Chinese investment and assistance have helped Greece renovate the Port of Piraeus and make it one of the fastest developing ports in the world.
In 2008, the former COSCO Group obtained franchise right of No.2 and NO.3 container terminals of the Port of Piraeus. At that time, the port suffered a loss of 13 million euros. Due to aging infrastructure and suspended production, the management and development hardly moved forward.
In 2016, China COSCO SHIPPING Corporation acquired a majority share of the Piraeus port authority, becoming the operator of the port. Faced with unfavorable conditions, the Chinese company worked actively to stabilize operation and expand market. After years of efforts, the port turned losses into gains.
Now, the Port of Piraeus has become the biggest port of the Mediterranean with growing container traffic. With piles of containers being loaded and unloaded, fully loaded trains arriving and leaving, busy truck traffic and workers operating machines, the port has become busy and prosperous again.
In 2018, the Port of Piraeus became the world’s 32nd largest port in capacity, up from 93th in 2010.
Ten years ago, some Greek residents adopted a pessimistic attitude toward the Chinese investment, and some even worried that their jobs might be replaced by Chinese workers.
Facts have proved that such doubts are unnecessary. The Chinese company has created jobs for the local community, respects and trusts each employee and has brought glory to the port, said Tassos Vamvakidis, commercial manager of Piraeus Container Terminal, adding that people working for the port are all grateful to China.
Since it became the operator of the port, China COSCO SHIPPING Corporation has created 3,000 and 10,000 jobs, directly and indirectly, and made important contributions to economic recovery of Greece.
“The Chinese company, with visionary development strategies, has brought about advanced equipment and rich management experiences to make the port become better and better,” said 60-year-old Armpen, a driver at the port. Though he has worked for the port for only four years, he could deeply feel its unprecedented vitality.
The Chinese company pays high attention to providing humanistic care to its employees and fulfilling its social responsibilities. It cares about the safety and life of each employee and has built good relations with local society, according to Armpen.
Greece’s shipping industry ranks the first in the world, and the maritime related businesses has always been key to the country. In just 11 years, the Piraeus Port has grown into the largest port in the Mediterranean, as well as one of the fastest-growing container terminals in the world. The significance of the port for Greece’s economic development is widely hailed by all walks of life in the country.
Thanos Liagkos, executive of the Piraeus Port Authority S.A. told People’s Daily that the tangible development results achieved by the port are telling magnificent stories of mutually beneficial cooperation, and the Greek side is confident that the project will be built in a better way together with their Chinese partners.
The Piraeus Port has become the most important terminal in the Mediterranean, and such development comes from the sincere cooperation between Greece and China, said Adonis Georgiadis, Greek Ministers for Development and Investment. The minister remarked that the port has set an example for Chinese investment in Greece, and witnessed a success jointly achieved by the two countries.
Greece signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with China in August 2018, becoming the first developed country in Europe to do so.
Angelos Kotios, rector of the University of Piraeus noted that the signing of the MoU is a win-win result for Greece and China, because of which the Piraeus Port walked out of shadow and maintained continuous development under the assistance from Chinese enterprises. It manifested the marvelous significance of the BRI construction for the world, and will attract more and more investors to Greece, the rector said, adding that the port will mobilize more countries to join the BRI and benefit from the mechanism.
Xu Lirong, Chairman of the Board and Party Secretary of China COSCO SHIPPING Corporation told People’s Daily that the company will strictly follow the laws and regulations, as well as environmental protection policies of Greece under the support of Greek government and relevant parties. It will further expand investment in and construction of the Piraeus Port, and build the port into a first-rate terminal of Europe, so as to make positive contribution to the pragmatic investment and cooperation between China and Greece in a wider scope.