Piraeus, Greece (PortSEurope) February 12, 2019 – As well as high profile contracts to manage entire ports and port terminals around the Mediterranean Sea, the Chinese COSCO shipping and ports group, has also been seeking cooperation agreements with ports in Europe. This provides another route to market for Chinese goods seeking European markets.
Today, the Piraeus Port Authority, operated by China’s COSCO Shipping Ports Limited, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Italian port authority that manages the ports of Venice and Chioggia – Autorita’ di Sistema Portuale del Mare Adriatico Settentrionale (AdSP – Northern Adriatic Sea Port Authority).
Both parties seek cooperation, in order to develop their ports and port services, supporting infrastructure connectivity policies and port services aimed at fostering the commercial flows between Europe, the Mediterranean and the Far East via the two ports.
China’s COSCO Shipping Ports Limited operates Piraeus Port Authority SA (PPA) and Piraeus Container Terminal SA (PCT).
This comes at a time when the European Union (EU) has proposed new investment screening measures for foreign state-owned companies that want to purchase a European harbours.
Since the start of the 21st century, Chinese companies have acquired stakes in some 15 ports in Europe, that handle more than 10% of shipping containers traffic to and from the Old Continent, according to the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The state owned COSCO Shipping Ports and China Merchants Port Holdings have acquired stakes in: Port Said, Egypt; Casablanca and Tangier, Morocco; Marsaxlokk, Malta; Istanbul, Turkey; Piraeus, Greece; Bilbao and Valencia, Spain; Marseille, Nantes, Le Havre and Dunkirk, France; Antwerp and Bruges, Belgium, Rotterdam and the Netherlands.
This shopping spree is part of China’s maritime Silk Road project (part of the Belt and Road initiative also known as One Belt, One Road, or OBOR), which seeks to connect the country to commercial centres in Africa, Asia and Europe.
Some Mediterranean ports, seeking expansion options, have embraced the new Silk Road strategy, trying to establish themselves as key hubs for Chinese access to European markets – again raising EU concerns. Trieste port is such a port.
Italian Economic Development Undersecretary Michele Geraci and Infrastructure Undersecretary Edoardo Rixi visited Trieste February 2 to plan for the role of the Trieste port in the New Silk Road, and called on local producers to forward proposals for cooperation with Chinese companies.
Geraci was reported as saying in view of the planned visit to Italy of Chinese President Xi Jinping in March, local businesses should be ready to collaborate with Chinese companies.
It is to be presumed that the same call is being extended to all producers nationally. Geraci added how the port of Trieste has the chance to become the most important terminal in Europe for the New Silk Road.
China is also reported as being interested in deeper business relations with Rijeka port in Croatia and Livorno in Italy.
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