Greek cruise ship companies left all at sea by strike

Greek cruise ship operators are worried of a lasting impact on the sector from an ongoing strike by port workers protesting against the sale of the country’s biggest port Piraeus to the Chinese shipping giant Cosco.

Greece in April agreed the sale of a 67 per cent stake in Piraeus Port to Cosco for €368.5 million (Dh1.53 billion) under a third international bailout.

Port workers have held 48-hour rolling strikes since late May, disrupting cargo operations and services provided to cruise ships docking at Piraeus over fears their jobs are at risk.

“We are very worried,” said Theodoros Kontes, the head of the Greek cruise ship owners association. “If they keep striking, we are expecting a €10m impact on our business in Piraeus only for June.”

Greece had revenue of €560m from about 2.5 million cruise ship passengers last year and the sector has been growing since May after cruise lines shunned Turkey and Egypt for Greece, due to safety concerns.

But Mr Kontes said he was concerned that this positive trend could be reversed after two cruise ships left Piraeus over the weekend to dock at other ports in Greece and Italy due to the port workers’ labour action.

“If the strike continues and many companies perceive the situation unpredictable, there is a risk that they dock elsewhere, or even make more permanent changes to their schedule,” said Giorgios Paliouras, a member of the board of the Greek travel agents association.

Port workers want Cosco to safeguard jobs for a minimum number of people, with current labour contracts, as part of a concession agreement to be signed later this year.

“Renewing the 48-hour strikes is what we have in mind,” said George Georgakopoulos, the dock workers union director. “We recognise there is an inconvenience for passengers and that is why we ask the government to resolve the matter the soonest.”

The Greek government called on workers on Monday to stop strike action and help find a realistic and viable solution.

Greece’s privatisation agency and Lamda Development signed on Tuesday a memorandum of understanding amending the sale and long-term lease of a prime seaside property at the old Athens airport of Hellenikon, a source close to the process said.

Greece clinched a €915m deal for the site of the disused airport in 2014. Under the terms of that deal, a consortium led by Lamda Development, a Greek developer, would own part of the property and get a 99-year lease to develop all of it.

The deal was a bailout action the country had to meet to satisfy its international lenders and unlock fresh funds.

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