Strikes at ports of Piraeus, Thessaloniki threaten cruise ship schedule

10 June 2016
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An ongoing strike at the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, the country’s two largest such facilities, threatens to derail the all-important cruise ship itinerary at the former and to make the latter all but “disappear” from the regional transport map.

The strikes, heading into the second week, come as labor unions stepped up opposition to privatizations at both ports, with the Piraeus Port Authority having already been awarded to Chinese multinational Cosco following a successful international tender and with the latter apparently on the selling block as well.

Government mediation efforts have so far failed.

The situation at the port of Piraeus, which serves the greater Athens area and is one of the biggest ports in the eastern Mediterranean, is now explosive, given that some 15,500 cruise ship passengers are due to arrive over the coming weekend aboard eight vessels. Two of the vessels, in fact, cannot dock at other regional ports due to their size, port authority officials said.

If the strike is not temporarily suspended none of the vessels will be able to dock in Piraeus.

In Thessaloniki, the head of the state-run privatization fund (TAIPED), Stergios Pitsiolas, warned of the “catastrophic consequences,” as he put, of the ongoing strike in the northern Greece metropolis’ port.

Representatives of cruise ship operators, including global leader Carnival, have over recent days attempted to survey the situation ahead of the weekend, which essentially marks the beginning of the peak summer season for the cruise sector in the Mediterranean. The Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) reportedly could not guarantee the normal operation of the passenger terminals at the port.

OLP’s leadership, in fact, has sent an urgent notification to the relevant maritime and tourism ministers, as well as to TAIPED, warning that a failure to host the cruise ships this weekend will have “unforeseen consequences for tourism and the (Greek) economy”.

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