Changes in the port industry
Radical changes in the world economy, and consequently in global transport systems, have altered the operational, organisational and, in some cases, ownership status of the port industry. Ports have become a capital intensive competitive industry, playing a crucial role in world trade, and by extension, in the world economy.
In the case of European ports, two different approaches emerged in recent years. On the one hand, north European ports adopted new organisational models to increase their competitiveness, effectiveness and their ability to adapt to a speedily changing economic environment. On the other hand, south European ports took longer to adapt than their north European competitors. Spain, Italy and Turkey are among the countries that made reforms with positive results and an increase in their competitiveness.
The case of Greece
Greece has been a quite different example. The attempts to follow the changes that occurred in Europe and elsewhere were delayed, even in comparison with other Mediterranean and south-east European countries. The Greek state proceeded with a reform of the national port policy aiming to alter the Latin tradition of state-owned comprehensive port organisations a decade ago. This resulted in the transformation of 12 Greek ports of national interest to state-controlled autonomous companies. Two companies, Thessaloniki Port Authority SA and Piraeus Port Authority SA have been listed on the Athens Stock Exchange since 2001 and 2003 respectively.
Greek ports face increasing competition from other ports in the region, as the last few years non-Greek ports invested heavily in new infrastructures and superstructures usually with the participation of private funds. Moreover, Greek ports, especially Piraeus and Thessaloniki, lost a significant part of their throughput due to port labour protests that lasted almost two years – back in 2008 and 2009 – as trade unions resisted the government’s intentions to proceed with a concession of the Thessaloniki container terminal and Pier II of Piraeus container terminal. The result of the process was the concessioning of pier II of Piraeus container terminal to COSCO Pacific for 35 years. In the case of Thessaloniki, delays, and the insecurity produced by the financial crisis of 2008 resulted in the decision of the nominated winner of the tender to withdraw its interest.
The Port of Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki port is the second biggest in Greece, after Piraeus. The port facilitates all kinds of cargo (dry bulk, general, liquid bulk, containers, Ro-Ro) as well as passenger traffic (ferry and cruise) but mainly it facilitates dry bulk and general cargoes. In 2011, the port of Thessaloniki handled 295,567 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), 6,095.321 tonnes of liquid bulk cargoes, 3,592.957 tonnes of dry bulk cargo, 4,020.035 tonnes of general cargo and 64,800 passengers. About 46.28 per cent of the vessels that entered the port in 2011 were dry bulk carriers and general cargo vessels and 33.5 per cent of the total port throughput was dry bulk and general cargo (44.46 per cent liquid bulk and about 22 per cent containerised cargo).
It has six piers with a total quay length of 6,200 metres and a sea depth ranging from eight to 12 metres. The storage area consists of open and indoor areas with a total surface of 600,000 square metres. The port is divided into three terminals: the passenger terminal which facilitates ferry and cruise ships; the container terminal which is equipped with two panamax and two post-panamax cranes; the dry and general cargo terminal which is equipped with 44 rail-mounted gantry cranes with a capacity of up to 40 tonnes and two mobile cranes with a capacity of 100 tonnes.
The dry bulk and general cargo terminal is made up of piers four and five and the eastern part of pier six (dock 24). Dock 24 is the locomotive of the terminal as it facilitates about 40 per cent of the port’s dry bulk and general cargo traffic. It is equipped with six rail-mounted gantry cranes with a capacity of 40 tonnes (four of them) and 32 tonnes (the remaining two) and has a length of 640 metres, a width of 160 metres and a depth of 12 metres.
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