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COSCO faces backlash as it moves to tighten grip on Greek port

COSCO faces backlash as it moves to tighten grip on Greek port

Chinese conglomerate has made Piraeus the Mediterranean's busiest sea freight hub

HAMBURG, Germany/ATHENS -- Global conglomerate China COSCO Shipping is gearing up for a fight as it seeks to tighten its grip over the Greek port of Piraeus, the once-sleepy harbor that it has turned into the Mediterranean's busiest hub for sea freight.

COSCO, which has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into Piraeus since first responding to an appeal for support from Greece in 2008 amid the global financial crisis, is now working to bring cruise ships and trains to the port and expand its offerings there into shipbuilding and repairs.

But rising disquiet in Greece and the wider EU over COSCO's methods and strategies could hold back the group's ambitions of taking Piraeus further up the ranks of Europe's busiest ports from its fourth place finish in 2019.

"We haven't seen and we aren't going to see anything good coming from the Chinese and COSCO," said Greek shipowner Evangelos Marinakis last month at an extraordinary meeting of the Piraeus City Council.

A council member himself, Marinakis voted with the body to order COSCO to halt sending construction trucks through the city and require it to move heavy materials by water.