Back to the drawing board for Cosco in Athens

Back to the drawing board for Cosco in Athens

It looks like officials at Greece's largest port in Piraeus, also known as OLP, will be busy this week revising their master plan for the port area which was shot down by archaeologists last week.

The Central Archaeological Council (KAS) decided that a large part of the port is of archaeological significance and that it must be protected in a decision that effectively prevents OLP from completing its 600 million euro investment plan.

This is a major setback for the port, which is majority owned by China's Cosco, creating fresh delays. Chinese officials are complaining that their OLP investment plan has barely moved ahead despite Cosco taking a majority stake in the port two and half years ago.

After initially taking over the management of a container terminal at OLP, Cosco has been investing in Piraeus as part of China's ambitious push to build a Silk Road through Asia and Europe. In 2016, the Chinese conglomerate took control of OLP for 280 million euros.

The ambitious plans are one of the biggest investments to take place in Greece and and include the construction of a new hotel, a shopping mall, shipping repair zones and logistics center.

Late on Friday, senior government officials met with Cosco officials and China's ambassador to Greece in a bid to take stock of the situation. Although Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who heads the left wing Syriza party, has publicly backed the investment, Syriza members are believed to be behind the decision by archaeologists to freeze the investment.

According to sources, Greek government officials renewed their commitment to push through the investment in the meeting, if the Chinese drop plans to build the shopping mall that has been heavily opposed by businesses in Piraeus and local government officials. Government officials said that Cosco has indicated it will withdraw the shopping mall from the plan.

An alternative for Cosco is to take the issue to the Council of State to overturn the KAS ruling but this is seen as a costly time consuming procedure.

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