The giant Cosco Shipping Taurus made its maiden call in February sunshine and represents the latest phase of a $620-million Chinese state investment at the Greek port.
Its arrival also comes just days after a foreign-led consortium concluded a €232 million ($285 million) privatization of Thessaloniki port, the second-largest in Greece.
Capable of carrying 20,000 20-feet equivalent units (teu) Cosco Shipping Taurus will be a common feature at the port as it will become the main container carrier in the so-called Silk Route between China and Europe.
Launched in Shanghai in June 2017, it is the largest container ship ever built in China. Four hundred meters long — about the length of five Airbus A380s — and with a width of 58.6 meters, it is just one of a number of giga vessels which will make transhipment calls to Piraeus.
Speaking to Greek Reporter was Zhang Anming, managing director of COSCO-owned Piraeus Container Terminal.
He confirmed that 2019 would see a fourth berth constructed at the Cosco-managed port which will allow it to accommodate a fifth giga-class vessel, making Piraeus a key hub for transshipment in Europe.
When asked to comment about recent media remarks by Greece’s Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis who said Athens also wanted to do business with other Asian economies, Animing said:
“I don’t think there is any any negative impact because I believe now the economy of Greece is becoming more stable step-by-step and may even increase. We are glad to see [this] and I believe we have contributed to that.”
Within the next five years, Piraeus is scheduled to handle 7.2 million teu annually, which will make it the Mediterranean’s biggest cargo hub and behind only Rotterdam, Antwerp, and Hamburg in Europe.
Cosco has spent millions into shoring up the strength of two piers to shoulder the weight of containers stacked six stories high.
By the time Cosco completes its pier works Piraeus will be the only Mediterranean port capable of harboring five giga-container vessels simultaneously.
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 — the 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.