Greek Shipping and Island Policy Minister Ioannis Plakiotakis (3rd R), Chinese Ambassador to Greece Zhang Qiyue (C) and other officials cut the ribbon during the opening ceremony for the launch of expansion works at Piraeus Port Authority's cruise terminal in Piraeus, Greece, Feb. 25, 2020. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
PIRAEUS, Greece, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) -- Greek's largest port Piraeus on Tuesday kicked off its expansion project which, once completed, will usher in a "new era" for the port and cruise sector in Greece.
The expansion project of the port's cruise terminal, featuring two new berthing positions, aimed to better accommodate "new generation" cruise ships of over 280 meters long, according to a press release issued by the Piraeus Port Authority S.A. (PPA).
China's COSCO SHIPPING acquired a majority stake in PPA in 2016 and has already started changing the port's outlook.
"It is an important day for the Region of Attica, for the city and the port of Piraeus, the port we hold dear to our hearts. We set in motion one of the largest projects which have ever been materialized in the region," Regional Governor of Attica Giorgos Patoulis said in his speech at a ceremony.
The expansion project features quays with a total length of 2,300 meters and depths varying from 19 to 28.50 meters, PPA said.
The project also includes a land area of approximately 153,000 square meters and networks of drainage, optic fibers, and supply of electricity and potable water.
It is expected to help increase homeporting (start/end of cruise trips from the port of Piraeus), thus bringing more revenues to the local economy, officials said.
Greek Shipping and Island Policy Minister Ioannis Plakiotakis said that Tuesday's ceremony marked the start of a new era for the port and cruise sector in Greece.
"They (the investment projects) will upgrade and strengthen the Piraeus port's competitiveness. Piraeus deserves to be the first port in southeastern Mediterranean, and we are determined to bring it to this rank cooperating with PPA's administration," Plakiotakis told Xinhua.
Some 26 million cruises passengers traveled across the Mediterranean annually in recent years, the minister said, stressing that Greece wants to see more than 1.1 million visitors reaching Piraeus every year.
Echoing the minister, PPA Chairman Yu Zenggang said: "Piraeus cruise terminal expansion project...will profoundly improve the stature of the port of Piraeus as home port for Mediterranean cruises and promote Greek tourism industry. I believe the future of Piraeus port will be very bright."
The expansion project, with a 32-month timetable, was initially budgeted at 120 million euros (130.5 million U.S. dollars) and co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Region of Attica, according to PPA.
It is part of a wider investment plan worth over 600 million euros implemented by PPA as stipulated in the 2016 concession agreement signed between the company and the Greek government.
"The implementation of the expansion program within such a short period of time has been highly recognized by the society," Chinese Ambassador to Greece Zhang Qiyue told Xinhua. (1 euro= 1.09 U.S. dollars)