Piraeus, where the maritime Silk Road meets land
The port of Piraeus in Greece, the largest of its kind in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, is a major terminal for vessels traveling from Asia to Europe.
Chinese company COSCO SHIPPING built the harbor, a key station that links maritime and land transport routes.
“We consider the Piraeus terminals a pioneer of Chinese investments in Greece,” said Tassos Vamvakidis, commercial manager at Piraeus Container Terminal S.A. He said China has offered an example of foreign investment at the port.
At the harbor, some of the containers unloaded from vessels are loaded onto trains, and will then be delivered to many parts of Europe via railway.
About ten express trains depart from Piraeus Port every week. The route extends throughout central and eastern Europe, passing through Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
“Piraeus has a strategic location for us to provide rapid transportation services. We have provided high efficiency services for our customers,” said Su Xudong, managing director at COSCO SHIPPING Lines Greece.
To boost efficiency, the firm established a new subsidiary last year just to handle the railway business.
The subsidiary commits to localization. Among its 140 employees, only four are Chinese, leaving most job positions for local people.
Addressing concerns that Chinese investment may take over the market in the area, the company’s manager says she doesn’t think so.
“There is growth of business, and this is applied to all of Europe, not just Greece. In my opinion, what the Chinese government is attempting is a healthy investment. They are investing and building infrastructure, which benefits my country,” said Varvara Skavatsou, the manager of the Control-Rail Tower Department at COSCO SHIPPING Lines Greece.
“The entire service chain, including our equipment and staff, we all rely on local resources,” said Su. “We never thought of dominating the market. We vow to have an open market based on the idea of mutual benefit.”
Su said the demand at the Piraeus Port itself is small. But thanks to the connectivity, the trade volume has increased. And as for Chinese exporters, they benefit from convenient services.