Competition between the two leading ports in the Mediterranean is heating up as Piraeus moves to hold onto to first place, while Valencia gets ready to launch an ambitious investment plan aimed at boosting its capacity.
On the one side, the Greek port is expanding under the management of China's Cosco, while on the other side, Valencia is working with MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company) and the ports arm of TIL (Terminal International Limited).
Both ports have been showing strong growth. In 2019, 5.65 million containers moved through Piraeus, representing an increase of 28.4 percent, after taking into account the estimated number of goods transported through Pier I (the formal data has yet to be made public).
The other piers managed by Cosco's subsidiary, Piraeus Container Terminal, as part of the port's privatization, also performed strongly. According to data provided by Cosco Shipping Ports, a total of 5.15 million containers were shipped through the port in 2019, representing an increase of 17 percent from the previous year.
Valencia is also moving ahead fast. Up until November, data shows that 4.9 million containers were transported through the Spanish port, in a 7 percent increase.
2019 was the year that Piraeus managed to take top position in the Mediterranean and fifth place in Europe, possibly even fourth place, above Germany's Bremen.
The Spanish counter attack
At Valencia, officials are planning an investment program that will exceed the one billion euro mark. A few weeks ago, a tender was completed regarding the development of new port facilities that will more than double its capacity to 12.5 million containers by 2027. The MSC group has been awarded the expansion deal that has a duration of 50 years.
The target is to create the most modern port in the world, with 98 percent of activities done with electricity, resulting in low energy emissions.
In response to these expansion efforts, Cosco has announced its own growth plans. Last year, Piraeus port unveiled plans to build a new 300 million euro pier for the transportation of goods, in a move that will boost its annual capacity to nearly 10 million containers, from 7.2 million today. So far, however, these plans have yet to be approved by the Greek government, nor by local councils, that are opposing the investment amidst concerns that it will harm living conditions in the area.