A worker dies, Piraeus turns against Cosco’s “Chinese way”

A worker dies, Piraeus turns against Cosco’s “Chinese way”
A worker dies, Piraeus turns against Cosco’s “Chinese way”

In 2019, the year before Covid, the Port Authority of Piraeus (PPA) had a turnover of 149.2 million euros, pre-tax profit reached 47.6 million euros and the net result was 35.4 million euros. Important numbers for the terminal operator and at the same time Cosco authority, but very little compared to the profits accrued by Cosco as a shipping company thanks to the boom in traffic. While to the Greek authorities, in 2020, the Chinese-managed PPA paid the misery of 1.3 million euros in concession fees, plus eight hundred thousand euros in dividends. “What Athens gets from the Port Authority is peanuts,” Plamen Tonchev, Head of Asian Unit at the Institute of International Economic Relations (IIER), told HuffPost. “The value of all goods (especially Chinese) transhipped through Piraeus, we are talking about billions of dollars, is infinitely higher than Cosco’s contribution to the state and economy of Greece. Unfortunately, there is no way to provide a credible estimate of the value of these assets also because the Chinese are incredibly reserved on this point ”.

Faced with the low tax revenues in the Greek coffers, the citizens of Piraeus have seen the number of ships arriving and leaving the three port terminals grow dramatically, with consequences that can be easily understood from an environmental point of view. More containers that turn also means more trucks that cross the city, and there have been episodes of heated protests and road blocks. Not only that: according to the opposition, “subcontracting and precarious employment relationships allow employers to blackmail employees and, with the fear of dismissal, to impose miserable conditions”.

Not even the Greek entrepreneurial fabric smiles, which, initially enthusiastic about the arrival of the third maritime transport company in the world in its backyard, soon had to change its mind. The parliamentary hearings of the stakeholders of Piraeus, which took place before Cosco rose to 67% of the Port Authority, offer an interesting and complementary cross-section of what has been called “The Chinese way”. “The investor hasn’t moved a stone in the area of ​​ship repairs for five years. COSCO’s money did not fall on Piraeus and if the Chinese have to change even one light bulb, they bring it from China, ”said the president of the Shipbuilding Association. “Cosco’s uncontrolled behavior must stop.” Not only that: according to the president of the Panhellenic Shipowners’ Association, “we have also witnessed an arbitrary and excessive 60% increase in the entrance fees collected by Cosco. And there is not even a trace of a commercial collaboration with our members, despite the fact that we are customers of the Port Authority ”. For another ship repair entrepreneur “we have not seen any advantage for the national or local economy, so far we have not had any results from the Chinese investment”. In Piraeus, the ship repair industry is historically very important to the local economy, but the Chinese seem willing to cut it out of future projects, according to local operators: “The Chinese can be very good with containers and they deserve compliments. because they did a great job, but they entered shipbuilding because they want to close it and make us disappear, ”said the president of the Schisto Industrial Park.

The mayors of the municipalities who insist on the most important European port in the Mediterranean are of the same opinion: according to the mayor of Piraeus, “the concession contract of 2016 was a bad deal for the local government”, while for the counterpart of Keratsini- Drapetsona, a Municipality adjacent to Piraeus, “sooner or later it will be necessary to reckon and see what has gone to the Greek state in these five years. This agreement was a very bad concession agreement for us from the very beginning ”. According to the mayor of Perama, a city where there is a vast area of ​​ship repairs on which Cosco has so far invested zero, “there are negative consequences for shipbuilding and repair companies, for all productive sectors linked to the port, but above all for employees “. While for the Vice Regional Governor of Piraeus “since 2016 the main request of the local government has been to obtain a return on investment for local communities and cooperation with Greek companies. After five years there is no tangible proof of all this ”.

“There are many issues related to Cosco’s presence in Piraeus”, continues Tonchev. “There are many complaints about environmental pollution and lawsuits that have ended up in court. Local operators also complained about the high entrance fees collected by COSCO. Not only that: the Chinese company wanted to build a new shipyard in Perama (west of Piraeus), but local companies reacted vehemently, as of course they don’t want to have a Chinese boss with Chinese work standards. The idea was then abandoned, ”explains the IIER researcher.

Chinese investment seems to have made only the Chinese happy, not the Greeks. Also because Cosco’s roots immediately after the debt crisis paved the way for other Chinese state-owned enterprises. As a policy paper by researcher Francesca Ghiretti for the Robert Schuman Center reconstructed, in 2016 the China State Grid Corporation acquired a 24% stake in the Greek public electricity company Public Power Corp. Then Shenhua Renewables took over 75% of the four wind farms of the Copelouzos Group. In 2018, the China Energy Investment Corporation started a cooperation with the Copelouzos Group itself for the development of wind farms, with the aim of expanding to other European countries. In November 2019 Cosco acquired 60% of Pearl, a railway company based in Piraeus and shortly thereafter acquired a 15% stake in Rail Cargo Terminal-Bilk, a railway terminal in Budapest with an annual capacity of 230,000. Teu. After the capture of Piraeus, in short, a dozen companies of the Dragon, mostly public, decided to go shopping in Athens and its surroundings. Under the nose of Brussels which, from relentless and austere architect of Greek destiny at the time of the debt crisis, now stands silent.


worker dies Piraeus turns Coscos Chinese

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