Cosco’s investment plan for the port of Piraeus may become history under archaeological threats. After a meeting that was conducted on April 2, Greece’s powerful Central Archaeological Council (KAS) struck a major blow to the Cosco-owned Piraeus Port Authority’s (PPA) $675m master plan by characterising a large part of Piraeus as an area of archaeological interest that must be protected.
Specifically, KAS voted against the plans of Cosco to build a mall next to a new cruise ship terminal. In the meantime, KAS also asked for restrictions on a five-star hotel that is planned to be built in the southern section of the central port where the main cruise terminal is located.
The ability to operate a 300,000-tonne capacity dry dock at the industrial Psyttalia site, also remains doubtful.
Yet, the expansion of the archaeological zones offshore raises questions over whether KAS in this case, will interfere with dredging off the passenger port of Piraeus.
KAS’ decision places the relations between Cosco and the government to another test as the Chinese company sees its plan as an integral project and not isolated interventions, while Beijing views Cosco’s plans as part of the process for a new Silk Road that will consolidate China’s global financial power.
Moreover, KAS’ decision is expected to conclude in an eight-months delay for the start of implementation of any of the investments planned.
In light of the eight-month delay, it will be added to the two-and-a-half years of delays since the PPA was privatised.
Cosco has effectively become a hostage to the Culture Ministry, which appoints KAS members, with a clear impact on the time of investment implementation.
Cosco, commented on the delays that
There can be no major commercial port without a railway link and modern logistics facilities; there can be no ship repair zone without major tanks and high-standard services.
However, the KAS decision was expected. A KAS session, initially set for March 5, was postponed after an outcry, mostly by municipalities, and a written request by the PPA’s management, asking for more time to respond to the prospect of declaring one of two of Greece’s most industrialised districts as an area of archaeological interest, a prospect that would mean stricter building license regulations and land uses.
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