by Maria Spiliopoulou
ATHENS, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) -- Greek Shipping Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis praised on Thursday the Sino-Greek cooperation at Piraeus port, speaking to Xinhua on the occasion of the launch of new projects to upgrade Greece's largest harbor.
Work has started to upgrade the harbor ahead of the arrival of the new floating dock "Piraeus III", at the end of February, in a project that the managing company, China COSCO Shipping, launched last June, Greek national news agency AMNA reported.
Since China COSCO Shipping acquired a majority stake in Piraeus Port Authority (PPA) and took over the management in 2016 after winning an international tender, the image of the harbor is rapidly changing.
The new works includes dredging the harbor to create up to 20 meters of operating depth, providing new electricity and water supply networks, and installing four mooring buoys for anchoring ships.
The new floating repair dock -- 240 m long, 45 m wide, 22,000 tons lifting capacity and full crane equipment -- will be able to service ships with a capacity of 80,000 tons.
"The projects that have started at Perama and will proceed with the lifting of two wrecks off Pier II by the Shipping Ministry, so that the infrastructure for the installation of PPA's large floating dock can be created, show how smoothly the cooperation of the Greek government with the investors is progressing," Kouroumblis commented.
"They also show that the Shipping Ministry's policy will continue to facilitate any development activity stemming from COSCO's contractual obligations regarding bureaucracy and other obstacles," the Greek official told Xinhua.
"At the same time, we support workers' rights by welcoming the latest agreement between employees and the PPA for the signing of a Collective Labor Agreement," the minister said.
Shipping officials have said that ships will no longer need to carry out repair and maintenance operations in other Mediterranean shipyards, while this move is also expected to create new jobs in the Greek market.
The latest projects at Piraeus have received a warm welcome by representatives of the market.
Speaking to Xinhua, George Koumpenas, vice president of operations at Celestyal Cruises, welcomed the works as a very positive development, in particular for companies managing passenger ships operating in the region as well as for the Greek shipbuilding industry.
"In recent years, due to a lack of suitable dock sizes, companies have been obliged to dock our vessels to neighboring countries such as Malta, Turkey and Croatia. This has resulted in the loss of significant revenues for the national economy," he explained.
"The installation and operation of a large floating dock will help maintain and develop the shipbuilding industry in the wider Piraeus and Perama areas, as an important criterion for the choice of the port for seafaring companies is the ability to make repairs," Koumpenas stressed.