London – Greek lawmakers approved a controversial agreement giving China’s Cosco Pacific a 30 year concession to operate container terminals in Piraeus, the country’s top box hub.
Parliament voted 149-131 with one abstention for the $1.1 billion deal which was signed in the presence of Chinese president Hu Jintoa last November.
The agreement is fiercely opposed by dock workers who staged a mass rally in Athens ahead of the vote on Thursday.
Dock workers have vowed to continue protest action, including bans on overtime and weekend shifts and rolling 24 hour strikes, that began two years ago when the center-right government unveiled plans to privatize container operations at Piraeus and Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest port.
The protests have severely impacted container operations in Piraeus with traffic stagnating at 1.37 million TEUs in 2007 and then falling to 430,000 TEUs in 2008.
Under the concession, due to start in November, Cosco has pledged to spend an additional $300 million to upgrade facilities and boost the port’s annual capacity to around 3.7 million TEUs to create a leading Mediterranean transhipment hub.
The privatization of Thessaloniki’s box terminals fell through in December after Hong Kong’s Hutchison Whampoa pulled out of a tender.