by Maria Spiliopoulou
ATHENS, June 30 (Xinhua) -- Greek lawmakers ratified on Thursday with an overwhelming majority the landmark concession agreement with China's COSCO Shipping for the acquisition of a majority stake in Piraeus Port Authority (PPA or OLP in Greek).
During a roll call held in the plenum, 223 MPs of the ruling coalition as well as opposition parties voted in favor of the bill on the approval of the sale, while 25 legislators voted against.
A total of 248 legislators participated in voting which was broadcast live on the parliament's channel and 52 MPs were absent.
The ratification of the contract for the privatization of Greece's largest port came a few hours ahead of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' first official visit to China.
The Greek leader is scheduled to travel to Beijing on Friday, heading a large delegation of officials and businessmen, aiming to further develop bilateral ties.
The changing of hands at Piraeus port under the deal approved on Thursday has been hailed by both sides and international experts as a milestone in the friendly Sino- Greek relations which will benefit Greece, China and the world.
After the Greek parliament's green light, under the agreement sealed in April this year, COSCO will pay to Greece's privatization fund, the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF), 280.5 million euros (311.52 million U.S dollars) for the 51 percent of shares in PPA and the management of the port.
Following investments of another 300 million euros total worth in infrastructure works within the next five years, under the deal, the Chinese investors will pay HRADF an extra 88 million euros to acquire an additional 16 percent of shares in PPA.
COSCO was declared in February preferred investor for the sale of the controlling stake in Piraeus port after winning an international tender.
In March, the Court of Audit approved the deal, while earlier this June the contract was cleared by the general assembly of PPA's shareholders and the Greek Competition Commission.
Greek and Chinese officials and entrepreneurs as well as independent analysts have welcomed from the beginning the controlling of PPA by COSCO as a win-win cooperation step.
The privatization of PPA is expected to help debt-laden Greece boost growth to exit the six-year debt crisis through the transformation of Piraeus into a leading transit hub for products and services from Asia to Europe.
Piraeus port holds a key role in China's Belt and Road Initiative for the construction of a modern Silk Road to promote international multi-faceted collaboration.
PPA's privatization will add a total of 1.5 billion euros to the Greek economy until 2052, when the concession deal expires, and help create 125,000 jobs, according to a survey of the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE), one of Greece's leading think tanks.
The ground to reach the landmark agreement was paved by the remarkable results of COSCO's presence at Piraeus in recent years.
Since autumn 2009, COSCO's subsidiary Piraeus Container Terminal (PCT) has been operating Piers II and III at Piraeus port under a 35-year concession agreement.
By taking over also Pier I, operated by PPA until today, the Chinese investors promise to work hard to post impressive results soon and to turn the vision for Piraeus into reality.