By A. Tsiblakis
The “Cosco era” begins at the port of Piraeus next week, as the Chinese multinational is ready to assume control of Greece’s largest and busiest port after winning an international tender for a majority stake and management of the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP).
Piraeus will mark the first time that the state-controlled and Shanghai-based shipping giant assumes control of an entire port authority outside of China, given that its specialty in overseas operations has, up until now, been container ports.
By their own admission, Cosco’s leadership have pointed to a goal of turning Piraeus into the biggest port in the Mediterranean. At an even higher level, Beijing hopes OLP will quickly transform into an important gear in the “One Belt – One Road” commercial initiative, which is heavily promoted and funded by the Chinese state as a mixed mode transport and delivery system to connect markets throughout the Eurasia landmass.
Cosco is scheduled to transfer 280 million euros to Greece’s privatization fund, TAIPED or HRADF, on Aug. 10, for 51 percent of OLP’s shares. Another 16 percent of OLP shares will be transferred to Cosco for 88 million euros over the next five-year period.
Wednesday’s session at the Athens Stock Exchange will witnessed the debut of a privately-run and owed OLP, whereas a new board of directors will be elected on Aug. 12.
According to reports, the new OLP president will be top Cosco executive Wan Min, with the same reports stating that Wan will preside over the port authority from overseas.
Day-to-day management, from a managing director’s position, will reportedly go to Capt. Fu Chengqu. The latter has experience in Greece, given that he served as the head of Cosco’s container port concession at the port of Piraeus over recent years.
Cosco will retain eight seats on the 11-member board of directors. Ten of the 11 seats will be held by Chinese nationals, according to reports, with the eleventh member a Greek national in the capacity of an independent non-executive member.
Given the distances between Cosco’s far-flung port and shipping activities, board meetings will be held via teleconferencing.