Feature: Greeks, Chinese work together at ship repair zone to uplift Piraeus port
2018-09-22 12:29:00

Chinese employees work at the shipyard of Piraeus Port Authority (PPA) in Perama, Greece, on Sept. 21, 2018. China COSCO Shipping took over in 2016 the management of Greece's largest port after winning an international tender. Chinese and Greeks work nonstop at this shipyard of Piraeus Port Authority (PPA) as part of a major plan to upgrade Piraeus port and support the economic revival of the wider region. Work will not cease even during holidays, such as the Mid-Autumn festival which falls on Sept. 24 this year. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)

By Maria Spiliopoulou

PERAMA, Greece, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- For several decades the heart of Greece's ship repair industry was beating at Perama, a western suburb of Piraeus port, until the Greek debt crisis broke out in 2009. Thousands of workers lost their jobs and machines became rusty.

The image of the zone is changing dramatically since China COSCO Shipping took over in 2016 the management of Greece's largest port after winning an international tender.

Chinese and Greeks work nonstop at this shipyard of Piraeus Port Authority (PPA) as part of a major plan to upgrade Piraeus port and support the economic revival of the wider region.

Work will not cease even during holidays, such as the Mid-Autumn festival which falls on Sept. 24 this year, Chinese expiates working here told Xinhua on Friday.

"You know ship repairing is a very special industry. The time is money. Every ship has its schedule. If the cargo delays or the schedule delays, it is a big loss to the clients... It is normal in China and I think here is the same. If the client needs it... we must hurry up here," said Ma Liang, commercial manager at Perama shipyard.

Ma, 32, is a member of a team which arrived to Perama a few months ago, to help breathe new life into the zone. He has been working for a decade in COSCO.

Back home he would spend the Mid-Autumn Festival, one of the most important festivals for Chinese people, with his one-year-old son, his wife and his parents.

The festival, falling on the 15th day of the eighth month on Chinese lunar calendar, is a major occasion for family reunions, with the tradition of enjoying the full moon and eating moon cakes.

In Greece, Ma will be at his post, proud for holding a small part in a major project.

"We have the confidence to rebuild the ship repairing industry in the future and have very good cooperation with our Greek colleagues," he told Xinhua.

Currently about 40 Chinese and Greeks are working at the zone. The goal is to upgrade infrastructure and be able to supply the one-stop service to all clients.

Significant first steps have already been made. In March this year, a new floating dock of 22,000 tons lifting capacity, which can serve ships up to 240 meters in length and 35 meters in width, with transport capacity of 80,000 tons (PANAMAX) arrived on the site.

"The new floating dock expanded the existing infrastructure, aiming to attract more ships to the Ship Repair Zone of Perama from the wider region of Mediterranean and contribute to the boosting of Ship Repair industry by creating new working positions," according to a Piraeus Port Authority statement.

"The total investments provided by the concession agreement already in progress at the Ship Repair Zone of Perama will exceed 55 million euros (64.6 million U.S. dollars) and will emerge the port of Piraeus into a ship repair hub in the Eastern Mediterranean, aiming to attract more ships per year as a result of increased reliability and efficient services," PPA said in the statement.

The Greek government and local administration officials have welcomed the development and praised many times Sino-Greek cooperation at Piraeus port as an example of win-win collaboration.

Although far away from his family for the first time, Hu Miao, 28, who joined the team as project supervisor last October, told Xinhua he feels like home at Perama, as Greeks are warm and friendly.

"It is my first time to be away from my family without my wife and parents... I think it is luck for me to be here, because this is a Chinese very important project with Greece," he said.

Zhang Baohua, 27, also a project supervisor at Perama shipyard, has been working for COSCO since 2014.

"I arrived here in March this year, actually together with the new floating dock," he told Xinhua. The "Piraeus III" floating dock arrived with a COSCO Shipping cargo ship, and Zhang by plane.

"This is the first time I celebrate the Mid-Autumn festival in a foreign country. Of course I miss my family, I miss my mother, I miss my father... I will have a video call with them and tell them what we are doing in Greece," he explained, pointing to the updating of cranes and docks to attract clients.

On Monday he will be at Perama with his colleagues at work. "We will celebrate with my brothers... The company will supply us the moon cakes," he told Xinhua.

Source: Xinhua Editor: Cassie