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Chinese Firms Now Hold Stakes In Over A Dozen European Ports, Cosco Shipping Holdings downgraded over trade fears

Chinese Firms Now Hold Stakes In Over A Dozen European Ports
October 9, 2018

For decades, whenever stevedore Giorgos Nouchoutidis arrived for work at the port of Piraeus, he would breathe in the fresh, briny sea breeze and feel a surge of pride.

This port has long been a metaphor for Greece. It's where ancient warriors in triremes set off for battle and where refugees in fishing boats arrived in the early 20th century, fleeing the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. It's also where Hollywood docked to film the 1960 movie Never on Sunday. The film's Oscar-winning theme song is a love anthem to the port.

"It's a blessed location," says Nouchoutidis, 67, reminiscing in his living room, under a watercolor painting of a ship. "It's across from the Suez Canal. It's deep enough for big ships. And it's my home. My father worked here," he says. "We didn't have machines back then. We used to load everything onto the boats with our own hands — bags of clothes, leather goods and knitwear made in Greece, all bound for North America and Australia."

But by the time Nouchoutidis retired, in 2010, the port was about to take on a new identity: China's main gateway to Europe. That's the year the state-owned China Ocean Shipping Co., known as COSCO, started buying stakes in the port of Piraeus. Six years later, the company controlled the port.

Giorgos Nouchoutidis, shown at home with wife Maria, worked at the port of Piraeus for decades before retiring in 2010. "It's a huge mistake for our government — and for the European Union — to have given up this port to the Chinese," he says.
Joanna Kakissis/NPR

"We handed over control of our most important port to a company that's not even in the European Union," Nouchoutidis says. "The EU pushed us to do it. ... They will see the damage to our interests in a few years."
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In the past decade, Chinese companies have acquired stakes in 13 ports in Europe, including in Greece, Spain and, most recently, Belgium, according to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Those ports handle about 10 percent of Europe's shipping container capacity.


Cosco Shipping Holdings downgraded over trade fears

Hong Kong-listed liner giant to suffer double whammy of tariffs and high bunker prices, says analyst.

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