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Piraeus port operations 'frozen' last week by pilotage boat breakdowns

Piraeus port operations 'frozen' last week by pilotage boat breakdowns
The new Cosco Shipping management of Piraeus were reminded of the realities of dealing with a cash-strapped government the night of 17 October when the port of Piraeus was left without a pilot service down leaving 10 large containerships at anchor in the roads and cruise ships approaching.

The absence of a pilot service “froze” the port's operation from late October 17 to the morning of October 18 when the last of the port’s five pilot boats broke down. The port's new administration is striving to build Greece's largest port into a container and cruise ship hub.

The pilot service has five pilot boats, used to embark and disembark pilots onboard ships when they arrive off Piraeus to assist the ship's bridge during berthing. Three of the vessels have been out of operation for some time due to a lack of spare parts and of the two remaining boats one recently broke down with the fifth breaking down around 10pm on 17 October. The vessel was repaired overnight and back in service about 12 hours later.

Pilots allegedly refused to use alternative approaches to reach the incoming vessels despite the urgings of port users, especially international liner companies anxious to see incoming and outgoing cargo moving.

Piraeus sources say that although the pilotage service is profitable, the current situation is due to delays on the part of the Shipping & Island Policy ministry in releasing funds to cover the repair of the pilot boats.

It is understood the pilots took their stance in refusing to use alternative boats in a bid to force the government to appropriate the funds necessary to get the small fleet operational. However, the action resulted in the escalation of congestion at the port, leading to long delays and much additional cost.

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