Greece’s shipping industry is showing serious signs of growth as a Piraeus port in the throes of a multi-million-euro expansion prepares to welcome an enormous new Chinese container ship.
The Hong Kong-flagged Cosco Shipping Aries is due to dock at Piraeus on Feb. 12, becoming the largest container vessel to arrive at the Greek facility so far.
Its arrival is just the latest stage in a journey which will see the port become a key link in the shipping chain joining Europe and the Far East.
At the start of January, Cosco — the Chinese-state owned shipping and logistics giant which also controls 80 percent of Greek rail cargo to central Europe — unveiled ambitious plans to expand at Piraeus.
Cosco — which won a majority stake in the Piraeus Port Authority in 2016 — currently runs operations at Piraeus able to handle three 19,000 20-feet equivalent unit (teu) vessels with no draft limitation plus one 10,000-teu ship with a maximum draft of 13.8 meters (45 feet).
However, in future, new works will see extensive dredging of the harbor to prove more access, as well as improved anchoring for ships.
An enormous floating dock called Piraeus III is also expected to arrive at the end of next month, allowing the port to service huge container-carrying vessels.
More cooperation with economic powerhouse China has been on the Greek government’s agenda for some time. Last May, Greek Shipping Minister Panayiotis Kouroublis told a two-day forum in Athens that the country was ready to expand its sea-tourism offerings in tandem with commercial expansion.
Greece was also advised to open itself to the enormous tourism markets of China and the Far East.
Overall, shipping has bucked the trend of economic decline in Greece. According to provisional data released by ELSTAT — Hellenic Statistical Authority – in Dec. 15 last year, Greek ports saw a 12.1 percent increase in domestic and international goods loaded and unloaded between 2016 and 2017.
Similarly, the number of domestic and international passengers embarking and disembarking was up 8.1 percent in the 2016/2017 period.