Cosco chief has high hopes for Piraeus

Captain Χu Lirong, chairman of China COSCO Shipping and Κountoura Elena, alternate minister of economy, development and tourism officially open the new cruise berth at Aghios Nikolaos Captain Χu Lirong, chairman of China COSCO Shipping and Κountoura Elena, alternate minister of economy, development and tourism officially open the new cruise berth at Aghios Nikolaos

Cosco Shipping Corp, which gained a majority stake in Piraeus Port Authority in August, aims to more than double the port's cruise passenger numbers by extending facilities to handle the bigger ships, its chairman, Xu Lirong said Monday during a ceremony launching its newest cruise facility.

'The movement of cruise passengers is around 1.1m a year at present' said Xu, who flew into Greece for the occasion.

He added: 'Our short term goal is to increase it to 1.5m, and 3m in the longer term.'

The visit to Greece by the Cosco chairman signaled the start of the Hong Kong-listed firm's strategic planning and investment in Greece's biggest port.

Xu said Piraeus would be extended with new berthing space for next generation cruise ships. 'The quality of services will be upgraded, and there is plenty of potential for future growth in this sector,' he said.

Tourism has overtaken shipping as Greece's main cash earner, accounting for about 17% of its €185bn economic output and employing one in five people.

The Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) sees tourism revenues rising from between 1% to 2% to about €15bn this year, anticipating 27.5m visitors including cruise passengers.

Cruise shipping attracted some 5m passengers last year, accounting for about 12% of Piraeus port's revenues of €100m.

While in Athens, Xu will meet with top government officials, which not only coincides with the completion of the new cruise berth at Aghios Nikolaos but also the successful conclusion to pilot operations at the western part of container terminal III, which will soon be ready for full operation.

Those two investments were prepared by the Piraeus Port Authority (PPA) and Cosco's local subsidiary and had started long before the acquisition of PPA by the Chinese company in a deal worth some €700m.

Construction of the Aghios Nikolaos berth was completed in 75 days, a development that turned many heads and also provided an insight into how the Chinese company aims to exploit the PPA concession.

The project had been delayed for four years under the previous state-appointment management of PPA. First phase of construction, cost €120m and included in a previously submitted financing scheme, which was funded by European Union and national credit lines by 95%.

The second phase was financed exclusively by Cosco.

Completion of the new cruise facility is seen as a prerequisite for gaining the 'green light' from the Attica regional authority for expanding port facilities towards the Faliro Bay, east to south-east of Piraeus.

Posted 03 October 2016

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