1. Mr Korkidis the Chinese investment into the Port of Piraeus is viewed as key example when it comes to China’s overseas infrastructure initiatives. How do you evaluate its industrial, economic and social impact on Piraeus on the micro level and Greece at large? What is the public view towards this investment scheme?
Answer: COSCO’s investment in the port is a “flagship project” of Greece, which greatly improved the throughput capacity of the port and created vast numbers of employment opportunities. It is an investment of more than 3.5 billion euro added value. A lot of activities were motivated with the development of the port, which means new jobs – much better paid jobs than other workers’ in Greece. Last but not least, I would like to point out that the advent of the Chinese COSCO in Piraeus has given a surplus value to the region, rekindling investment interest of Greek and foreign companies, that aim at creating hotels, conference centers and professional areas, benefiting from the city upgrading. The investment is important for both parties. Is important for Greece regarding the growth of the sea transport capacity through Piraeus and important for China since we open the main gate to all European countries. Regarded as the “southern gate” of Europe, Piraeus – which means “guarding the passage” in Greek – is now the third largest port in the Mediterranean Sea. A decade after the Chinese shipping company’s first investment in Piraeus port, China-Greek cooperation is striving to make Piraeus the number one port in the Mediterranean Sea.
2. As Greek economy recovers, what is your personal experience as a businessperson and leader of business associations? How have the years of the Greek debt crisis changed the shipping and shipbuilding industries in Piraeus? How did the impact differ between small and
medium-sized companies and the large ones? How have the companies overcome the challenges?
Answer: Greek shipping has rendered our country a modern maritime and commercial crossroad of continents. Balkan hinterland and the wider area of the Near East, as well as the promotion of Chinese trade in Europe through Greece, advocate the existence of a large modern fleet and of competitive services in our country. We should not forget, also, that the establishment of shipping companies in the wider area of Attica is the backbone for creating added value for many other relevant productive service sectors and for the development of the Greek Maritime Cluster, “Maritime Hellas”. The objective of PCCI’s Management is to revive shipbuilding and restore Greek shipyards, tanks and any repair infrastructure in Perama. Apparently, crisis, and the prolonged Greek recession, both resulted in changes within the labor relations and organizations’ structures and other operational practices. Additionally, the literature clearly outlines the immediate profound impact of the economic crisis on the way in which organizations have managed their human resources, by indicating more market-oriented and short-term moves instead of proactive, long-term interventions.
3. Strong familial bond is a characteristic of Greek businesses. How does it work in the ship-related companies in Greece? What is its positive and negative impact? Could you also elaborate with examples of your personal experience?
Answer: As shipping in Greece is a predominantly family business, it is sometimes hard to know who exactly are the largest industry players. This may occur because the assets of the ship owners may suddenly become separated or merged, rearranging the picture. It is also worth noting that it is the family name of the ship-owner which is usually known around the shipping business communities and not so much the name of companies managing the fleets.
4. Until now, most Chinese investments in Greece are conducted on the government-to-government level. However, as the trade tension between China and the United States heightens, Chinese private enterprises, many of whom are Caixin’s core readers, are seeking deeper collaboration with non-American partners, in Europe and Southeast Asia especially. What areas do you see potentials for more collaboration between private enterprises in Greece and China?
Answer: Apart from Cosco’s investment in Piraeus, which is seen as an anchor project for China’s presence in Greece, I firmly believe that the energy sector can become a fruitful field of mutual collaboration. Huawei, ZTE and PCCW Global investing in Greek startups and developers and Fosun participating in the long-awaited redevelopment of Elliniko. Real estate is another budding area. Some 850 Chinese citizens have bought property worth a total of around 500 million euros in Greece by making use of the Golden Visa program, which gives buyers a five-year residency if they spend more than 250,000 euros. Also, the next decade is set to see sustained growth in tourism, ICT, environmental sciences, food, beverage and agriculture, logistics, and life sciences.
5. Greek businesses have long-standing expertise in doing businesses in the Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe etc. In what areas do you see opportunities for Greek and Chinese companies to collaborate in third country markets?
Answer: Greek and Chinese companies can collaborate further on creating new guidelines for relatively new fields including digitalization and cybersecurity, strengthen international financial stability and work together on investment and trade activities in third-country markets including Africa etc.
6. What is your projection for development of ship-related industries of Greece in ten years?
Answer: Greek shipping is a truly entrepreneurial sector, primarily comprising small and medium-sized private companies, mostly family businesses, which are involved mainly in bulk / tramp shipping. Due to its inherent features, Greek shipping maintains characteristics of perfect competition and exhibits great flexibility and adaptability in the ever changing world economic environment. The Greek fleet is highly responsive to shifts in trade patterns or the reorientation of trade flows and contributes to the building of new trading partnerships between suppliers and importers in a cost-effective way.