China’s Cosco said it would go ahead with investments in Greece’s largest port Piraeus despite the crisis that has hit the Greek economy and sent shockwaves throughout the euro zone.
Greece is battling a 300 billion euro ($375 billion) debt and boosting foreign investment and competitiveness is a challenge for the Socialist government as it imposes painful belt-tightening measures in return for 110 billion euros of EU and IMF aid.
“I do believe we will bring a lot of opportunity for the Greeks and for the Greek economy,” said Captain Wei Jiafu, president and CEO of Cosco Group, which operates the world’s largest bulk cargo fleet.
“Cosco will materialise the agreement and will fulfil its duties and responsibilities.”
Cosco is the No.7 container shipping firm globally and controls port operator Cosco Pacific .
Cosco signed a guaranteed 3.4 billion euro concession deal with Greece in 2008 to run and upgrade port facilities for up to 35 years aiming to turn state-owned Piraeus port (OLP) into a regional hub, according to OLP figures.
“We set up this port as a hub port and to link three continents, south, east and middle Europe, Africa and Asia,” Wei said.
Cosco Pacific started operating one of OLP’s piers in October and has said it will build one more pier by 2015.
After meeting Greek government and Piraeus Port officials this week Wei said Cosco was also interested in setting up a distribution centre in Piraeus, to transport Chinese goods to the wider region and vowed to hire Greek workers.
Greece’s major ports saw container pile-ups in 2008 as dockworkers, fearing job cuts, refused to work overtime in protest at the concession deal.
Dockworkers joined some thousands of Greeks in a general strike and 25,000-strong march in Athens on Thursday against government austerity measures such as salary cuts, tax hikes and a planned pension reform.
Asked whether he was concerned over the repeated strikes Wei said he believed Greece would tackle its debt crisis and create a good environment for overseas investors. He said the government assured Cosco its operations would not be hindered.
“The time of Cosco’s concession agreement with the port of Piraeus is not 35 days or 35 months, instead it is 35 years,” Wei said.
“From the long-term perspective Cosco firmly believes any problems of the crisis that arise can be tackled by the understanding, the mutual trust between Cosco and the Greek people and the Greek government.” (Reuters)