Interview: Port of Thessaloniki Gaining Ground after Privatization

Greek Port of Thessaloniki is going through some major changes on the back of its privatization in December 2017, when the Government of Greece sold a 67 percent share in the port.

The stake was sold for EUR 231.9 million, however, the total value of the deal was EUR 1.1 billion. The concession agreement signed between the Greek State and ThPA SA, included obligatory investments amounting to EUR 180 million to be accomplished in the next seven years.

Sotiris Theofanis, Chairman of the BoD and CEO of ThPA SA, revealed the details and progress of the investments in an interview with World Maritime News.

Sotiris Theofanis, Chairman of the BoD and CEO of ThPA SA

He said that the obligatory investment program includes the extension of the port’s container terminal by 440 meters with a depth of 16.5 meters, the procurement of new equipment for container and dry bulk terminals, and general port development, including the rehabilitation of the old customs building.

“Provided that the maturity period will be shortened, we are determined to complete the Pier 6 Extension Project, being the backbone of our investment plan, in approximately 4.5 years, effectively much earlier than our contractual obligation.”

Theofanis explained that the extension of Pier 6 by 440 meters would provide berthing capacity to accommodate Neopanamax vessels with carrying capacity ranging between 10,000 and 14,000 TEUs.

“The important thing is that we will be able to serve main liner services that will come directly from East Asia to the Port of Thessaloniki,” he added.

Pier 6 extension to be completed in 4.5 years

For the time being, Theofanis said that the management team’s main priorities would be to restore the port’s level of service, procure state-of-the-art handling equipment, reorganize the company, and establish a customer-oriented business approach.

The first tenders for the procurement of modern cargo handling equipment are underway, according to Theofanis, while the efforts to improve the port’s operation have shown their first results.

Speaking on one of the port’s major issues, namely, long waiting times for ships, the CEO of ThPA said that “since the first day we took over the management of the port, we focused on reducing waiting time for ships at anchor for container terminal and conventional terminal as well.”

The port managed to reduce the waiting time from 28 hours in the first quarter of 2018, into 14 hours and 50 minutes in April 2018 and 12 hours and 10 minutes in May. Furthermore, ThPA decided this year to invest an additional amount of almost EUR 28 million to replace some of the old, obsolete equipment in order to improve the level of service provided to their clients, as a first step towards a massive port investment plan.

During the first five months of 2018, container traffic at the port showed an increase of 10% in TEUs compared to the same period in 2017, providing optimism for the future prospects. Based on this increase, it is estimated that the annual container throughput will reach 430,000 – 435,000 TEUs.

The port’s container terminal of great importance

“ThPA SA has high growth potential, that should be properly exploited. The new management team established last March, with a strong sense of responsibility is willing to work with vision, plan and commitment for the company’s growth and to respond to the trust bestowed on us by the shareholders and the economic community of Northern Greece as well.”

All of the port’s segments, including containers and conventional cargo handling, passenger traffic, cruise and coastal shipping, have high growth potential. However, Theofanis explained that ThPA attached great importance to the container terminal as the planned investments are expected to “provide a strong momentum for the development of the port.”

Theofanis concluded that the aim is to transform the Port of Thessaloniki into a modern port complex, bringing multiple benefits for the company, the city and Northern Greece, as well as expanding substantially its hinterland in South East Europe.

World Maritime News Staff

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