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Piraeus port set to climb into Europe's top three

Container traffic at the port of Piraeus (OLP), Greece's largest, jumped by more than 22 percent in the first eight months of the year, reflecting strong growth at the port.

Container traffic at the port of Piraeus (OLP), Greece's largest, jumped by more than 22 percent in the first eight months of the year, reflecting strong growth at the port.

In August, more than 465,000 containers moved through OLP, which is majority-owned by China's Cosco, representing an increase of 25 percent from the same month a year earlier. Indicative of the upward trend is data for the January to August period which shows that the number of containers transported through OLP hit the 3.5 million mark. The complete launch of the West pier III earlier this year has paved way for the strong expansion rates, boosting expectations that Piraeus will play a growing role in Europe and climb into the region's top five ports while taking the top position in the Mediterranean.

 Once the 800 million euro investment plan put forth by OLP moves ahead, then Piraeus will be among Europe's top three players, alongside giants in the sector such as the Rotterdam port in Holland and Antwerp's port in Belgium. Both have been entry points for products entering Europe for decades. OLP foresees the development of an additional container management pier, east of the existing pier I. Its capacity will reach 2.8 million containers per year, boosting OLP's total annual capacity to 10 million containers.

China's Cosco, which owns OLP, is ready to move ahead with an ambitious investment plan in a step that will lift its position in Europe.

On Monday, recently appointed OLP president Yu Zenggang met with Greek shipping minister Yiannis Plakiotakis and reiterated Cosco's commitment to immediately start implementing its Master Plan once it gets the green light from the Port Planning and Development Committee (ESAL). These investments are only the start, added the OLP president, as the goal of Cosco is to continue developing its Greek investment. ESAL is scheduled to meet on September 25 to decide on OLP's plans. In turn, the shipping minister stressed that the government intends to move ahead with all the necessary steps to help large investments take place at a fast pace, including the one at Piraeus.

Apart from the new pier and the obligatory investments of 294 million euros, the revised Master Plan includes a new logistics sector, hotels and a shopping mall that will be located at the new cruise docking station.

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