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China and Korea compete for closer maritime ties with Greece

Athens: China's Communications and Transport minister Li Shenglin was in Greece this week to sign a memorandum of cooperation with Greece's Transport minister Michael Liapis. Although direct air connections were the main subject discussed, the Chinese minister also met with Marine minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis and the pair re-confirmed the two countries' intention to cooperate on shipping matters including ports, reports Greek shipping intelligence newsletter Newsfront.

Indeed, Chinese shipping major Cosco is seeking an involvement in the operation of Greek ports, making the country its main hub in the Mediterranean. According to Greek financial newspaper Imerisia it is already a done deal, with Cosco to begin negotiations later this over an operating concession that would take in the ports of Piraeus, Thessaloniki and a start-up facility in Timbaki, near Iraklion, in Crete. But other Greek sources say any deal is a long way off with other parties, including leading international terminal operators, still in contention.

Indeed, South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun was in Greece earlier this month at the head of a national business delegation, and he too signed a shipping pact with Kefaloyiannis (on September 4) which again included cooperation on the development of Greek ports.

Speaking at a meeting of businessmen held during the South Korean president's state visit, Union of Greek Shipowners president Nicos Efythimiou alluded to the 'very substantial' role that Greece had played in the development of Korean shipbuilding. Greek owners currently had more than 400 ships on order, he said, of which 176 would be built in Korea.

But Greece's key role in bulk shipping also meant it had a responsibility to ensure that robust ships were built, Efthymiou added, and he called on Korean shipbuilders to fully support implementation of the more stringent Common Structural Rules being introduced by the International Association Of Classification Societies. [14/09/06]

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