Through win-win cooperation between the Chinese and Greek sides, Piraeus port has now taken a leading position in terms of container throughput and become the largest ferry port and the third largest cruise port in the European region, said Yu Zenggang, executive chairman of Piraeus Port Authority S.A..
ATHENS, April 21 (Xinhua) — Over 13 years of win-win cooperation between China’s COSCO Shipping and Greece’s largest port Piraeus have proven to be an exemplary case of common development, top managers and employees of the landmark investment project have said.
In 2010, Piraeus Container Terminal S.A. (PCT), a subsidiary of COSCO Shipping, took over the management of terminals II and III of the port, and six years later COSCO Shipping acquired a majority stake in Piraeus Port Authority S.A. (PPA). The Sino-Greek cooperation has drastically enhanced the container throughput of Piraeus port and brought significant benefits to the Greek economy and the local community.
Through win-win cooperation between the Chinese and Greek sides, Piraeus port has now taken a leading position in terms of container throughput and become the largest ferry port and the third largest cruise port in the European region, Yu Zenggang, executive chairman of PPA, told Xinhua.
Aerial photo taken on Sept. 6, 2019 shows the Piraeus port in Greece. (Photo by Lefteris Partsalis/Xinhua)
Since cooperation with the Chinese side was launched, the port of Piraeus has seen dramatic growth in container throughput and PCT is considered as a major contributor to the progress. Wang Jihang, executive deputy managing director of PCT, said the port has maintained an annual operating container throughput of over 5 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) in recent years, up from 0.88 million TEUs back in 2010.
“The continuous growth of container throughput and PCT’s business performance have made outstanding contributions to the development of the Greek economy and local society, creating about 3,000 direct jobs,” Wang said.
In 2016, more growth was recorded after COSCO Shipping acquired a majority stake in PPA, expanding investment to the ferry, cruise, car terminal, and ship repair sectors, among others.
For Nektarios Demenopoulos, who has been working at PPA since 2006 and now serves as its public and investor relations deputy manager, significant changes have taken place at the port after cooperation started with the Chinese side.
“Big investments have been implemented in all business activities. There is huge development in container business and upon the privatization agreement with the Greek government, there is still a lot of investments to be done,” Demenopoulos said.
Demenopoulos told Xinhua that the majority of employees come from Piraeus and surrounding municipalities, adding that “it has been estimated that every working position created in the port creates an additional three new indirect working positions for supplementary activities.”
“So for sure, this is a very big contribution of the Piraeus port authority to the local society and national economy,” the deputy manager said.
Antonis Apergis, the superintendent of PCT’s engineering department, has been working at the company for 11 years. As a local resident of Piraeus, he sees the port project as an exemplary case of win-win cooperation.
“The company has helped the wider region a lot, because if we recall it (the investment) started in a very difficult period for Greece (during the debt crisis),” Apergis said.
With the Chinese investment, new jobs were created, and this gave a very big boost, especially to the port’s surrounding area, he told Xinhua.
“On the other hand, if you look at the geographical location of the port, it gives a strategic, let’s say, competitive advantage in the specific sector. And let’s not forget that the port became one of the largest in the whole world, so both Greece as a country and the company have gained,” he added.
A cruise ship is seen at Piraeus port in Piraeus, Greece, June 2, 2022. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
The Chinese management team has provided many opportunities for professional training and personal development for their employees at the Piraeus port. Since 2018, PCT has established the “Life Learning Program,” which provides tuition sponsorship to employees who apply to pursue a master’s degree or above while working.
Han Wei, human resources and administrative manager of PCT, said that the company always attaches great importance to the skills development and personal growth of its employees.
“Since the sponsorship project was launched, ten employees have participated. These employees have not only improved their own ability and knowledge, but also made greater contributions to our company,” Han said.
Efi Varela, from PCT’s finance department, is one of the beneficiaries. She has been working at PCT since the company was founded and is currently studying for an MBA in shipping.
“PCT supported me from the very beginning,” said Varela, who was born in Piraeus.
Apergis is another beneficiary of this company policy. He told Xinhua that PCT has supported his master’s degree in business administration by covering a large percentage of the tuition fee.
“The fact that the company has adopted a culture based on teamwork and the well-being of its employees has obviously given me job satisfaction,” he said.
Apergis added that he wants to constantly improve, and that is why he likes lifelong learning. “The very good working environment offered by the company together with the support we have from it, gives us the ability to cope with challenges,” he said.
Passengers of a cruise ship disembark at Piraeus port in Piraeus, Greece, June 2, 2022. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
Over the years, the Piraeus port has been actively taking part in multiple social projects to exercise corporate responsibility for shared development with society as a whole.
In May 2022, PPA granted the SILO building and its adjacent spaces at the port to the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports for the construction of a museum of sea antiquities.
Yu said that via this project, PPA wants to help promote the archaeological and cultural development in Greece, and contribute to better understanding of the Greek history among local population.
PPA has a very strong strategy regarding environment, society and governance, said Demenopoulos, adding that “it’s very important that the growth of the port is not limited to the area of the port, but it has a very strong footprint in the local society and the national economy.”
Demenopoulos said the Greek colleagues share a common vision of making the port of Piraeus one of the biggest maritime hubs in the whole world with their Chinese partners. “We are a strong team sharing a big dream,” he said.
For PCT, contributions to charity projects are highly valued. “In 2021, our company expanded our support to vulnerable groups such as the elderly, children in need of special care, and the disabled through Greek charities, further fulfilling corporate social responsibility,” said Wang, the company’s executive deputy managing director.
For George Papandreou, who was elected prime minister of Greece in 2009 when the Sino-Greek cooperation project at Piraeus port started, harmonious cooperation towards common goals is of great importance.
The former prime minister told Xinhua in a recent interview that “we as a global society now have a shared future and we need to work together to take care of today and the future generations.”
“I believe in our civilizations, both the Chinese civilization and Greek civilization, the ancient Greek civilization, we have concepts which provide us with guidelines to (achieve) more harmonious cooperation in our world,” Papandreou said.