Chinese Shipping company China Cosco Holding Co. is expected to invest more than half a billion euros ($552 million) in the Greek Port of Piraeus within the next five years, the company’s president said Wednesday.
The company plans to invest mainly in the cruise and shipbuilding industry and develop Piraeus’s facilities and services, the company’s president Xu Lirong said at a meeting with the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Shanghai.
The investments aim “to make Piraeus the biggest transit port in the Mediterranean,” Mr. Lirong said.
The Greek premier is on a five-day official visit to Beijing and Shanghai, designed to lure Chinese investment. It comes after the final approval by Greece’s parliament for the sale of a majority stake in the Port of Piraeus, the country’s biggest, to Cosco.
“Greece, which is the first stop in China’s way to Europe, can become a bridge between China and the West, between Asia and Europe,” the Greek premier said.
The deal transferring a 67% stake in the port to Cosco has been years in the making and was approved by a large majority in Greece’s parliament last week.
Piraeus, a few miles south of the Greek capital, is the de facto home of the country’s giant shipping industry and is one of the largest ports in the Mediterranean. Cosco uses Piraeus as a transshipment hub for Asian exports to Europe arriving on container vessels from China, given its proximity to the Suez Canal.
Mr. Lirong asked for help from the Greek premier to deal with frequent strikes at the port.
Dockworkers in Piraeus have held 48-hour rolling strikes since late May, disrupting cargo operations and services provided to cruise ships over fears their jobs are at risk due to the privatization.
In late June the workers announced they would suspend strikes but will continue to abstain from overtime and weekend shifts.
“We are certain that Piraeus will open new prospects for the broadening of Greece-China cooperation in transport, infrastructure, telecoms and shipping,” the Chinese president Xi Jinping said Tuesday during a meeting with Mr. Tsipras in Beijing.
He called Greece “China’s most reliable friend in the EU.”
Mr. Tsipras’ trip, which concludes Wednesday in Shanghai, included meetings with several major companies.
Earlier Wednesday, Mr. Tsipras met with the president of the online retail giant Alibaba, Jack Ma, who expressed his interest in investing in Greece.