Chinese investment in a key Mediterranean port will open new trading routes and improve towage demand in the region
Greek tug owners will be boosted by a breakthrough in funding for a major port expansion project in the nation.
Investors in Piraeus Port, the largest in Greece, secured €140M (US$155M) of finance from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to support expansion and upgrade of harbour and terminal facilities.
This will be the largest investment in the port’s history and is likelyt to lead to higher numbers of ship calls and opening of new trade routes.
The EIB loan is guaranteed by the Export–Import Bank of China, indicating where future trade and container ships will come from.
Total investment of €600M will be spent on increasing capacity of the container terminal and other ship docking facilities by backers including COSCO Shipping and Piraeus Port Authority.
This 20-year loan from EIB will “support transformation at the Port of Piraeus”, said Greece prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis this week.
Piraeus Port Authority chairman Yu Zenggang said EIB support “reflects the broad benefits to be unlocked by the largest investment programme in the history of the Port of Piraeus”.
He added, “Recent investment has shown how investment at the Port of Piraeus can support economic growth and benefit Greece.”
Cosco Shipping has operated the Piraeus container terminal since 2008 and added piers to expand its capacity to more than 4M TEU.
This includes benefits to the nation’s towage industry, which has invested in new tugs in preparation for increasing demand for handling larger container ships.
One of Greece’s largest tug owners, Spanopoulos Group, has built its own fleet of vessels at New Hellenic Shipyard in the nation. This includes three tugs built this year, Christos XXX, Christos XXXI and Christos XLV providing towage and escort services to a range of shipping around Piraeus.
Milos Towage & Salvage has also brought two tugs into service, including Alexandros V in March and Baja in August this year, for ships in Piraeus, Kiato, Thisvi and Syros ports.
Expansion of Piraeus by Chinese investors is part of a wider capital investment campaign in southern European ports, according to the European Tugowners Association’s research.
This was one of the trends for the future of European towage that was highlighted at the association’s conference at the Europort exhibition in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on 7 November.
During that conference Ecorys researcher Martin van der Bossche highlighted investment in Mediterranean ports would open new trading routes from China, south east Asia and the Middle East.
“In Europe, the majority of the investment in ports will be in the Mediterranean and will mean changes in the import and export of goods in ports and changes in the types and size of ships calling at ports,” said Mr Bossche.
“Chinese investment in the Mediterranean will mean rerouting of cargo and balancing of trade from northern Europe to southern Europe.”