(Piraeus, Greece) – COSCO Shipping, which is China’s biggest shipping company, recently purchased the Port of Piraeus, which is part of Greece’s privatization program and their ultimate goal is to turn the port into one of the world’s largest. For starters, they plan on increasing the port’s container volume to 35 % by 2018. Currently, the port is Greece’s largest. However, Fu Cheng Qiu, the new managing director at the Port of Pireaus, envisions much bigger things. They want to boost the port’s container traffic to 5 million TEU’s as part of its overall vision to use Piraeus to boost trade between Asia and Eastern Europe.
COSCO Shipping currently has the world’s fourth-largest container shipping fleet. The company purchased 51% of Pireaus’, becoming its largest operating company. This purchase cost COSCO 280.5 million euros, the equivalent of 315.4 million dollars. This is one of Greece’s largest privatization deals since the Greek debt crisis began in 2009, which is roughly a year before the country’s first bailout.
In an interview, Fu Cheng Qiu said that, “If we reach that level…Piraeus port would be among the world’s 30 largest container ports.” He also said that, “Through our investments (we want) to create more jobs for the benefit of the local community. A company, of course, always needs new blood…in order to be growing.” Currently, Piraeus is ranked as Europe’s eighth busiest container port. If COSCO were to reach its goal, it would then be Europe’s fifth busiest.
Piraeus also generates jobs for the Greek people. Currently, the port employs over 1000 people. Labor unions initially protested the sale of the port fearing that people would begin to lose their jobs. Fu said that he is, “very careful and very serious about these issues… and is handling them in line with the law”. Time will tell whether or not these jobs will be preserved.