Having taken control of Athens’ port of Piraeus and elevating it to one of the most productive in Europe, China wants to use it as a gateway for the rest of the European Union even though a major renovation plan is being stymied by a Greek archaeological council.
Piraeus is the key link for the 21st century Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that was outlined in Beijing, an event attended by Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras who is keen on more foreign investments although many in his party aren’t.
The BRI, also known as the New Silk Road, involves more than a trillion dollars worth of Chinese infrastructure investments across Asia, Africa, and Europe — with at least $64 billion more to come, said Yahoo Finance in a report on the project.
COSCO, China’s port operation company, took a 51 percent state in Piraeus that the Greek government allowed when Tsipras reneged on pledges to halt the sale of state assets and the Chinese company has turned it around.
During the first year of COSCO operating the port, the throughput grew by 10.9%. according to a report by Lloyd’s List. And of the top 100 ports in the world, Piraeus was ranked 93rd in 2010. In 2018, it was 37th.
“This is something that China could quite persuasively say, is a success case, because the throughput has gone up quite dramatically since Chinese built the terminal there, and then also took over operations,” Jonathan Hillman, senior fellow at the D.C.-based think tank CSIS told Yahoo Finance. “The numbers and the port is just done very well, rising regionally, as now one of the top ports in the Mediterranean.”
The year 2018 was especially impressive, after two years of COSCO taking control of what had turned into a backwater port of little importance, showing a 147% improvement year-over-year and 27.9 million euros ($31.26 million) in profits.
“(The year) 2018 was the most successful year in terms of profitability,” Authority Captain Fu Chengqiu, the Port of Piraeus CEO, said in a press release. “The successful financial management also brings additional revenue to the Greek State due to increased concession fees, dividends, insurance contributions, etc.”
COSCO bought the majority stake in Piraeus for 280.5 million euros ($314.26 million) and wants to up the share to 67 percent as part of its plan to make it the jumping-off point – also by improving rail links that now end at Greece’s border – to get to the rest of the EU.
for trade between Asia and Europe, envisioning a southern gate to Europe.
“COSCO SHIPPING is a long-term and responsible investor, which strategically invests in the port of Piraeus aiming at further highlighting of Piraeus Port natural advantages and strengthening its position in the port industry,” Piraeus Port Authority spokesperson Nektarios Demenopoulos told Yahoo Finance.
He added: “We strongly believe that the development of Piraeus port not only meets the global strategic plan of COSCO SHIPPING, but it will also bring long-lasting benefits to Piraeus port employees, shareholders, local community and finally to the Greek economy.”
The project’s success has been heralded as a blockbuster in Chinese media.
“The development of Piraeus in recent years is the encouraging results of the cooperation between Greece and China within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative,” the Chineses news agency Xinhua reported earlier.